As a shameless pop singer, E is an anomaly — even in this era of rediscovered shameless pop stardom. Prior to forming the Eels, which he did in an effort to share some of the glare of the spotlight, E made two largely unnoticed solo albums. One of those, A Man Called E, was an unqualified artistic triumph… and an unmitigated commercial flop. In the early ’90s, a singer/songwriter of E’s ilk — one without a publicity “angle” — was doomed to be pushed aside by others willing to act out their frustrations. Action may speak louder than words, but E chose to let his music quietly do the talking. Who knows, maybe he should have pissed more people off.
The Eels’ latest, Electro-Shock Blues, picks up the natural progression that Beautiful Freak began. The Eels seem to effortlessly utilize a combination of sounds, both innovative and the time tested, that allows for as natural sounding really white boy trip-pop as your gonna get. The obvious first single, “Last Stop: This Town,” is as catchy as it needs to be, without sounding saccharine. The other 15 tracks work better as a complete piece than individual songs – kinda like Beck with more rock muscle (Jeff Beck?).
When your friends lament the lack of forward reaching music that resonates more satisfyingly than cookie-cutter machine driven pabulum, tell them about the Eels. Dreamworks, 9268 W. 3rd St., Beverly Hills, CA 90210; http://www.dreamworksrecords.com