Eels‘ frontman Mark Oliver Everett is self-aware. His intimate sentiments are heart-on-your-sleeve homage to how little he values self-worth, opting to render his listeners devastated by constantly reminding them it’s what he lacks that brings them in. He has one significant problem: Each album of his contains a gamete of solid songs, but the whole thing altogether sounds like a 45-minute identity crisis between an aging hipster and the youthful emo-minded angst monger within. His latest effort, Hombre Lobo, is no different.
The thing is, he almost pulls off the chameleon-ish performance. On certain songs, he sounds like an aged-awful bard whose remorse, and longing for the past, spawns tales of regret and eternal-second guessing. Other songs reveal a Jagger-meets-Iggy front man whose verbal swagger is enough to erase the sappiness of the album’s best moments (all of which lie in the cool-as-the-other-side-of-the-pillow moments during each of the record’s softer moments).
Everett, or “E” as he insists on being called, pays a debt of gratitude to his influences, and it’s asininely obvious his love for Iggy, Marc Bolan, and The Cure has pushed him into believing if he writes songs that sounded like either of his heroes, we’d be okay with it.
If he divvied this album up into tiny EP’s and slung them at us as separate entities, he would have been onto something. If I were he, I’d have released two EP-length albums much to the chagrin of my agent, and marketing directors. This is what each album’s play list would have looked like:
Album One: My Day Becomes a Quest
- That Look You Give That Guy
- In My Dreams
- The Longing
- My Timing Is Off
- All The Beautiful Things
- Ordinary Man
“My Day Becomes a Quest” begins with a somber E stating, “I never thought that I could be so bold/To say these thoughts aloud.” It sets the tone for an EP’s worth of self-doubt, awkward tenderness, and a standard slew of broken-hearted sentiment pointed in no particular direction. In each tune, namely the beatifically enhanced “The Longing”, we become privy to the inner-workings of a young(ish) man’s obsession with a young lady, and (perhaps) his catalogue of Leonard Cohen records, and Beck’s Sea Change. It’s as if he’s using a pre-proven formula of love-lost angst to batter his energy senseless. What’s left is a soft, Velvet Underground-on-sedatives-sounding rants about remorse, and the girl who got away.
“My Timing is Off” brings a rare beam of sunlight into the dim picture “Quest” paints throughout its gloomy duration. “My timing is off/But sometimes that’s how it all works.” What a blunt sentiment that makes up for what it lacks in originality with its sharp honesty. E sings it like he means it, and the slight less-than-jolly chord progressions of the tune carry his care-less heartache off to the clouds, and it’s a real pleasure to witness with a healthy set of ears — even if you’re happily in love with your present domestic partner.
“All The Beautiful Things” is another pretty portrait of a day in the life of a young dreamer who’s in love with a girl that may be slightly out of his league. “You’d be my only friend in the world/Or you could just be, my girl.” Nice. Again, E gives us a simple declaration that sounds more meaningful than the words themselves insinuate.
All in all, this is a well-crafted collection of songs that you need to listen to when you’re feeling down. Think about rainy days, or how badly you screwed up your prospects with that cute lady you couldn’t bring yourself to approach at your friend’s party over the weekend. Either way, this EP’s easy to appreciate when you need a reminder that you’ve still got a lot of growing up to do.
Album Two: Prizefighter
- Lilac Breeze
- Tremendous Dynamite
- Fresh Blood
- Beginner’s Luck
- What’s A Fella Gotta Do
E mimics rock’s most storied, over-glorified front men. He snarls at the microphone like it’s an ex-lover he still beds when there are no other options. Prizefighter is a gleeful tribute to the smell of stale beer lingering in a bedroom that held a rumpus orgy of overindulgence the previous evening.
The lustful progression of “Fresh Blood” would fit in nicely on HBO’s sultry vampire show, True Blood. Picture a gaunt Scott Weiland-esque lead patrolling the backstreets of New York City in search of untainted crimson to fuel his pursuit of more decadence.
On “What’s A Fella Gotta Do”, E insists, “you’re disinterest is driving me mad,” further insinuating the raucously cocky behavior laden throughout the formulaic EP in question. On this particular track, it sounds as if his backing band is The Stooges (circa 1970), and his attitude has been dragged through the mud after a Mississippian downpour. It’s ugly, brash, and honest. It’s rock ‘n roll.
Perhaps dividing the full album into two individually released entities is a bit brash. It’s a lucrative proposition, but who can afford to feed their dogs, let alone plop down $22 for two EPs? This album would’ve been terrific if it were split into two parts. E didn’t seem to think so, and released it as a whole. That’s his right. Either way, if you listen to it using the methods I’ve explained, this record borders on transcendent. Otherwise, it’s a heap of conflicting ideas on how to meld heroic strength to youthful vulnerability.