Just in case you haven't read enough opinions on the new Eels album, here's my official review...
Mark Oliver Everett, better known as E, the notoriously underappreciated force behind the Eels has delivered the goods yet again. Critically praised, yet still widely unknown as far as the mainstream is concerned, Eels have churned out six studio albums, a career retrospective set, and a live album complete with an orchestra. With four years since their last new album, comes the release of “Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire,” their seventh studio release, and latest in the long line of songwriting masterpieces. Always mixing playful rock n’ roll mannerisms with deep heart-wrenching introspectiveness, E isn’t afraid to run the emotional gamut, and does so rather frequently. Hombre Lobo, or Wolf Man in English, is a rough continuation of the “Dog Faced Boy” from 2001’s “Souljacker” LP. With inspiration from E’s manly beard (honestly) he thought about what that dog faced boy would feel like as he grew up to become a man, giving him large inspiration for this collection of songs. The album is very much divided between harder rocking animalistic rage and the softer humanly sensitive tracks, split almost every other track throughout.
The album starts off with the dirty distorted blues romp of “Prizefighter” and its high frequency screams, creating a care free atmosphere with E’s signature songwriting shining through. He sings “I’ve been through a lot and you can’t scare me” as well as “I’m a don’t-do-it-wrong-do-it-righter, I’m a prizefighter” with renewed swagger and honest rock n roll integrity. Quickly changing to his mellow tales of heartbreak and love missed out on, “That Look You Gave That Guy” follows with sorrowing vocals such as “I’m nothing much, I know it’s true.” Such a line couldn’t be less true, as Eels have delivered some of the most consistent alternative rock albums of the past two decades. The back and forth continues with the stomping bounce of “Lilac Breeze,” a triumphant blast of energy with grooving guitars and 60’s garage rock influenced drums that could easily cause a dance party without warning. “In My Dreams” takes the tempo back down into another somber yet beautiful song with soaring hope.
“Tremendous Dynamite” boasts a soulful grunt to kick things off and a heavy guitar riff that would make Led Zeppelin proud. In thick distortion E proclaims “I am el hombre lobo” with all the sincerity and attitude you’d expect. With a chorus that launches into a fury and drums that storm around the riffs, the song genuinely is tremendous. “Fresh Blood,” the first single grooves with a moody guitar lick that Dusty Springfield or The Stone Roses would have loved to use, with its eerie blues howl and break beat drumming. Speaking of howling, the wolf man lets some of his own roar in the ominous hook containing “sweet baby, I need fresh blood.” While most bands writing music about vampires or werewolves have the tendency to come across as cheesy, there is a strange honesty to this record that only E can produce. The mold of heavy to soft is broken for the first time as “What’s a Fella Gotta Do” follows with hard charging bursts of energy and passion. Containing the usual tired of being alone type imagery of the Eels, only this go round, E isn’t lamenting, he’s taking action. Lines like “Make my day, I’ll make your night” are testament to the mood of this song, arguably the best on the album. “Beginner’s Luck” has an unbelievably uplifting sensation with its constant upbeat guitar strums and the hook “The road in front of us is long and it is wide, we’ve got beginner’s luck, we’ve got it on our side.” A classic rock influenced bridge supports the bouncing vibe of the guitars and bass making for a strong lead into the finale of the album.
Tracks like “The Longing,” “My Timing is Off,” “All The Beautiful Things,” and “Ordinary Men,” continue some of the most bearing of the soul lyrics that any musician has wrote, and proves that the “Hombre Lobo” still has his emotions, and they are generally being torn apart and crushed on the inside. Fluttering around in the minor keys, Eels are no stranger to heartbreak, and their songwriting is widely relatable and incredibly personal. The upbeat rhythms and twinkling guitars have the ability to keep the songs remaining melancholy without sounding depressing, creating a quality of optimism. While all the songs are certainly good, many of them great, the flow of the album is lost by constantly switching between energetic and solemn. Every time they pick up the pace and get the adrenaline pumping it’s quickly drained back out, repeatedly rising and sinking just as quickly. All in all, Eels have delivered a good album that with some sequencing changes could be a great album.