August 9, 2011
by Leah Della Croce
|Introduction||A Man Called E||Beautiful Freak||Electroshock Blues|
|Brighter Days||Blinking Lights||The Holy Trinity||What’s Next for Mr. E|
Daisies of the Galaxy, Souljacker, & Shootenanny
Following the release of such a heavy and emotional album as Electroshock Blues, E very wisely went in the opposite direction on Eelsâ€™ next album, 2000â€™s Daisies of the Galaxy. This album was very aptly named; it is light, breezy, and altogether lovely.
The title track is a soft, encouraging ode to the discouraged. â€œTake heart, my little friend, and push back your seat/Soon weâ€™ll be far away, far from the street,â€ E promises. This gentle urge to brush oneself off and persevere is repeated throughout the album. In the upbeat â€œPacking Blankets,â€ mistakes can be undone, and heartaches forgotten. â€œPacking blankets and dirty sheets/A room full of dust and a broom to sweep/Up all the troubles you and I have seen.â€ The hearty â€œGrace Kelly Blues,â€ with its mini-stories of a lonely truck driver, a troubled movie star, and a disgruntled mall employee conveys the ultimate message behind the album: â€œBut me, Iâ€™m feeling pretty good as of now/Iâ€™m not so sure when I got here, or how/Sun melting the fake smile away/I think you know, Iâ€™ll be OK/â€
Which isnâ€™t to say that Daisies is all sunshine. Although its title may be a tad crude, â€œItâ€™s A Motherf***erâ€ (also amusingly censored as â€œItâ€™s A Monster Truckerâ€) is a plaintive, heartbreaking piano tune about a lost loved one, and the difficulty of going about a normal life without this beloved person.
Clearly, E was eager to keep the momentum going. In what seemed like no time, he was back in the studio, preparing for another album. 2002 brought the release of Souljacker, and also the debut of Eâ€™s enormously bushy beard. Both the album and the song “Souljackerâ€ were actually inspired by a serial killer who claimed to steal his victimâ€™s souls. The song â€œSouljacker, Part IIâ€ is about entirely the opposite, and is a beautiful metaphor for resisting conformity or abuse; â€œSouljacker canâ€™t get my soul/Ate my carcass in the black manhole/He can shoot me up with bullet holes/But the souljacker canâ€™t get my soul.â€
In Eâ€™s case, it would seem that the â€œsouljackerâ€ would be the grief of his personal losses; however, as the song connotes, he clearly intends to resist the theft of his soul.
â€œSouljacker Part Iâ€, â€œBus Stop Boxerâ€ and â€œDog Faced Boyâ€ are all abrasive, hard rocking tunes in which E howls and growls more than he actually sings. Oddly enough, this wolfish vocal quality suits E, whose bark is far worse than his bite; although in real life he appears rather menacing, he is clearly, as his softer, more personal music demonstrates, a highly sensitive and self-aware individual.
Souljacker also retains some of the airy loveliness of Daisies. â€œFresh Feelingâ€ is, in all likeliness, one of the most incredible songs E has ever written. â€œWords canâ€™t be that strong/My heart is reeling/This is that fresh feeling,â€ E sings elatedly of an invigorating love affair. The instrumental element is just as beautiful as the lyrics; the song is saturated with strings, and sounds like a miniature concert symphony of love.
2003 proved to be a very busy year for E and the Eels. In addition to scoring the film â€œLevityâ€, E also released an album, I Am the Messiah under the alias â€œMC Honkyâ€. (It has never been officially confirmed that E is MC Honky, but his vocals are clearly heard on the album, which is positively brimful of Eâ€™s signature instrumental and lyrical styles. There can be little doubt that in this instance, he is the messiah.)
In addition to all of this, the Eels had another studio album out. E had gone back to the studio late 2002, in hopes of recording a new album; by spring 2003, Shootenanny had burst onto the scene. Shootenanny bears a strong kinship to its predecessors, Souljacker and Daisies. â€œNumbered Daysâ€, â€œFashion Awards,â€ and â€œAll In A Dayâ€™s Workâ€ are highly reminiscent of â€œDaisies of the Galaxyâ€ in that they are mostly gentle, upbeat, and uncomplicated musically. â€œThe Good Old Daysâ€ and â€œSomebody Loves Youâ€ echo the joyful love song element present in â€œSouljackerâ€. Downbeat tunes like â€œDirty Girlâ€ and â€œAgonyâ€ are a mixture of â€œElectroshock Bluesâ€ and â€œSouljackerâ€: while â€œAgonyâ€ is punctuated yet again by Eâ€™s growling and howling, the lyrics have an element of grief and uncertainty, which had been introduced in â€œElectroshock Blues.â€ Although Shootenanny was a mixture of albums that had come before, E was about to pull out all the stops and come out with something completely different altogether: something colossal, unexpected, and glorious.
Leah Della Croce is a freelance journalist who has written for Examiner.com and the Alvernia University Magazine.
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