Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Cross Blogination #6 Eels - Electro-Shock Blues

Cross Blogination is back after a weeks break, the blogging project where formulaic666 and I review an album on our blogs. Either one we've suggest to each other or one someone else suggests to us. This week the album was suggested by @jenniepark.


I, like most of you I'm sure, was more than aware of the Eels before I started listening to this album. 1996's 'Beautiful Freak' was an album that I loved, the single 'Novocain for the Soul' pulling many of us in during those post Nirvana years. Quite why I never had this, the follow up, is a question I've been pondering all day after listening to the album this week.

'Electro-Shock Blues' doesn't contain a 'Novocain for the Soul' moment but it's a better record than its predecessor but maybe I was put off by the subject manner (more on that in a sec). But frankly I missed out and this is an album I should have owned before now.

Eels were always Mark Everett's band, and this album is all about him and his writing. Released in 1998 the album deals with where 'E' (as he is known) was at in his life. To say he was in a bit of a dark place is something of an understatement. His sister had just committed suicide and his mother was dying from lung cancer. His father had died 1982, E found the body, so he was dealing with being the only member of his family.

Musically I'm at times reminded of Beck (where did he go?) but without the funk, so although the album deals with some bleak themes, there is an uplifting sound to it through out which sort of provides the hope behind the words.

It doesn't get much bleaker than the opening track 'Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor,' where the lyrics are lifted directly from his sisters journal. 'My name is Elizabeth and my life is shit and piss,' is just a sample of what's contained within. Must have been incredibly hard to sing and record for E.

There's this delicate breakable quality to the album that gives you a real sense of what this sad period in E's life was doing to him emotionally.

'Dead of Winter' towards the back of the album is about his mother slowly dying of cancer.


So I know you're going pretty soon
Radiation sore throat got your tongue
Magic markers tattoo you
And show it where to aim
And strangers break their promises
You won't feel any
You won't feel any pain


Affecting and mournful stuff. Also hard to listen to and the opening line of the following track 'The Medication is Wearing Off,' is a perfect reflection of grief. I'll let you find it yourself, I do like setting you homework, but if you've ever lost someone you'll get the words.

What comes in-between those last few tracks and the first one is brilliantly pretty album about losing your loved ones in difficult and unpleasant circumstances. The only track I recognised was 'Last Stop: This Town' which was one of only two singles released. It's a nice tune but this was always going to be a difficult album to sell to the record buying public. The second track in, 'Going to Your Funeral Part One' is about going to his sisters funeral. It's not an easy listen as you get an insight into how E felt about his sister and how he finds a memory that allows him to miss her. And yet the song is a great one.

E clearly knows that the album is a tough journey for the listener and he end the record with a great song of hope and moving on. 'PS You Rock My World' is a track that leaves you feeling that despite the crap that's happening to E he's gonna be ok. 'And I was thinking about how everyone was dying and maybe it's time to live.'

Some times when people are in dark places they do their best work and that is very true here. Last night I was doubled up in pain when another kidney stone kicked off big time and this has been a lovely album to come back around to slowly over the course of the day. Very dark, but never so bleak you want to turn it off.

4/5

Now go see what Paul thought: Blog on the Motorway