You probably have Beautiful Freak. Practically every single person I know owns a copy of The Eels Beautiful Freak, and this is a good thing, because it’s a fantastic album. “Novocaine For The Soul” is obviously a great example of mid-90s alternapop, and the rest of the album – “My Beautiful Monster,” “Rags To Rags”, etc. – are all catchy and lyrically deep. It’s a refreshing listen, even today.
Practically no one I know, however, owns a copy of the follow-up: Electro-Shock Blues. By this point, alternative radio had stopped playing anything interesting or cool and had started playing lots of Limp Bizkit and crap, so this follow-up record didn’t get much airplay. That’s too bad, because it’s much, much better. It’s harder to listen to – it’s downright depressing to listen to – but it’s really, really good.
E, the lead singer and only permanent member of (The) Eels, lost his mom, his sister, and his best friend in the space of two years. Electro-Shock Blues was the record he made after that. Told you it was no picnic.
There are some obvious bright spots, though. One of them is called “Hospital Food.” Another one is called “Cancer For The Cure.” You might remember it from the soundtrack to American Beauty, a movie about a guy who has a nervous breakdown coupled by a mid-life crisis and winds up getting shot by his closeted Marine neighbor. Happy happy joy joy!
Actually, the only vaguely happy moment on the record is “Last Stop: This Town,” one of my favorite songs from GeekUSA: The College Years. It seems to be about hope. Hope of escaping, yes, but hope nonetheless.
This is the video. It’s…. well, it’s awesome. No other word for it, really. E was the son of a famous physicist who was odd, alcoholic, and emotionally distant. We know this now because E produced a documentary for Nova about ol’ Pops, and it explains a lot about this video, where E sits in a laboratory creating a clone of himself out of a carrot. This is how you exorcise your paternal demons when both father and son are mad, isolated geniuses, apparently.