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Friday, July 29, 2011

Download "E"els

In many ways Mark Oliver Everett, better known as E, has provided the soundtrack for my post college life.  I would say adulthood, but let's be honest, I am the definition of a man child.

One of my first acts of adulthood was purchasing DirecTV in 1996.  It was mostly to watch my Houston Astros (then a winning team, not the embarrassment they are today.)  The added benefit was the music station MTV2.  Much like MTVU today the network only broadcast music videos.  Living in Northeastern Pennsylvania and prior to Pandora and Ipods I did not have access to "newer" music.  This is very much country rock nation.  Don't get me wrong, I love me some Zeppelin and Stones etc...  But I have always known there was something else out there.

Without a child and very much footloose and fancy free I could easily crash on the couch after work, catch a good buzz and watch videos.  Mr Everett was an artist I could not ignore.  In 1996 he released Beautiful Freak.  He found a bit of success with the single "Novacaine for the Soul" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTnowC8C9UA.  College stations liked it and the video, directed by Mark Romanek, was a success.  I was late to that show.

But for E's follow up album, Electro Shock Blues, I was on board the entire time.  The story goes that E, a native Virginian, had his sister kill herself and mother die of cancer in a relatively short amount of time.  E's back and forth commutes from LA to home culminated in this masterpiece of songwriting and musicianship.  Make no mistake, this is a deeply emotional record.  It is also a true feeling of hope.

To wit, "Last Stop, This Town" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8hyCWH1Ww0  Optimism through even the toughest situations.  "Cancer for The Cure" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kDzEcCF5cI found its way on the American Beauty Soundtrack.  And it was around this time I first saw Eels live.  It was live, hearing him perform "Not Ready Yet" from Beautiful Freak, I became a lifelong devotee.  This is a particularly good version:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=362egby9cu0.  However I have heard this arranged or performed differently at least a half dozen times.  Mr E has performed with standard 4 or 5 piece band.   He has had an acoustic tour and string session (immortalized here:  http://www.eelstheband.com/eels_townhall.php  and streaming on Netflix!!!.)  I was able to see the NYC Town Hall show and it stands out as one of my better concert experiences.  Take a look at some highlights:  "Trouble With Dreams" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gNufJ267ek.  "Bus Stop Boxer" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVTI1IozwtA  The clips of E walking through Manhattan and in the subway provide a glimpse into E's uneasiness with the World and general distrust of humanity.  I dig it.

(Some quick side notes...  as my daughter entered the World she was often rocked to sleep listening or being serenaded by Eels tunes.  And her first real concert was a free show at the World Financial Center.  Eels was part of the River to River fest and I remember her sneaking up front with her mother to catch a closer look at the stage and band.  A little boy wearing a Brazil soccer shirt caught her eye and they had a little concert moment in the big city...  at age 4.  So that ties back into the soundtrack to my "adulthood."  Tomorrow may be the final time I see E in my 30s.  Weird looking back and looking at a ticket stub from my early 20s.  As my wife is quick to say she always looks forward to Eels shows because she is the hottest one there.  Geeks unite!!!  And keep your hands off her tomorrow please.)

In addition to his grief prior to Electro Shock his realtionship with his father provided a lifetime of angst. Hugh Everett was a noted American physicist and the author of "The Theory of Parallel Universes."  Many argue his theories and ideas were ahead of their time.  His work at Princeton was largely brushed aside or otherwise ignored.  After years of neglect the Academic World has given Hugh Everett his due credit.  But this has done nothing to overcome the distance he and his son had.  As E details in the BBC documentary "Parallel Lives" his most intimate moment with his father was when he found him dead in his bedroom.  You can watch the documentary on Youtube in 4 parts.  It explains much of how E goes through the writing process and how he got there.  Take a look if time allows I promise you will find it interesting.  He played it as his opening act a few years ago at the Highline.  My friends will tell you that was better than the ventriloquist he had with him last year.  He is eccentric for sure, but I have never seen an opening act outperform him.  As I have stated before, that is smart.  Probably why I will not be killing myself to get there when the doors open in Williamsburg tomorrow.  Documentary can be found here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAhy_7-ndkA&feature=fvsr.

E has been steadily pounding out albums and receiving critical acclaim for years.  He has been featured on all the Shrek soundtracks and numerous other films.  He can easily be called a success.

But I am still very much in the minority.  And when I post a picture on Facebook tomorrow you better believe I am gonna get a whole bunch of "Who the hell are the Eels?" comments.

I can't even get rid of an extra ticket or two for the show.

For the life of me I cannot imagine why?  9 albums in and showing no signs of age Mr Everett and his band of Eels are a musical delight.  In the age of Autotune and dance hits it is good to know E still exists.

Plenty of time to get on the bandwagon people.  Unless of course you had the Cops/America's Most Wanted weekend ahead of you.

Further Viewing:

From Album 3:  Daisies of the Galaxy  "Mr E's Beautiful Blues."  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZFLmhFn0mg  You might recognize it from the Tom Green vehicle "Road Trip"

Album 4:  Souljacker  "Dog Faced Boy" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Oh5qgBAq5I  Added Carmen Electra bonus footage.    Also from that album check out "Fresh Feeling" taped with Jools Holland http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KtFxB1gxC4&feature=related.

Album 5:  Shootenanny  "Saturday Morning"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8fj3rQ9vdc&ob=av2e  Fun pop stuff here.

Album 6: The double album Blinking Lights and Other Revelations is a masterpiece.  I could easily link the entire playlist, but for time and space sake take a look at "Going Fetal" mainly because of its irony, wit and charm.  This homemade video by goofy kids is worth a look alone: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7l7u-8zMQw&playnext=1&list=PL3B710B9D5FB8F88B.

E released albums in 2008, 2009 and 2010 as part of a "Concept Triology."

Hombre Loco has two gems:  "Prizefighter" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3sdPM5mfJ4 and "Fresh Blood" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4Qp1TEKswQ&ob=av3e.

End Times was divorce heavy and an overall downer.  Right up my alley.  "End Times" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6_2E0MF2bY.

I suspect I will hear some material from his latest album "Tomorrow Morning" 24 hours from now.  As the weekend approaches and I am reminded of one of the better cuts from that record.  Indeed, "This is Where it Gets Good" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z22p9dYz-O4.

Happy Weekend all...

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