Nearly Perfect Albums #17 – Beautiful Freak – Eels 

Your Lucky Day In Hell – Eels (1996, Dreamworks Records, Taken from ‘Beautiful Freak’)

I can remember the first time I ever heard Eels.  I was at work in London in the City.  To get to work back then I had to catch a train from the suburbs and if I was lucky I would meet my postman on the way to station.  He was called Jim and he spoke with a lisp, although judging by the look of him it might have been the slur of someone who was permanently pissed.  Anyway, Jim would normally hand me a parcel of records and CDs on the way to the station – back then I was an aspiring DJ and/or journalist depending on what mood I was in.  You got more free stuff if you were a DJ. 

Sadly the only stereo with a decent CD player on it, in the entire building that I worked in at the time, belonged to the office at the top of the stairs.  The office at the top of the stairs was the domain of ‘The Roys’.  Two men both called Roy, one fat, one thin, one married, one divorced, one bearded, one not, both as boring as a day out in Tiverton.  So you rarely went up there, but on this day, this joyous day, as I walked in the gates of the office I saw the Roys going out in their car, they were “off”,  Bearded Roy told me with a wave “to Brighton for the day”.  That meant the stereo with the CD player would be free. 

Now, I could have used the CD player attached to the PC, but we all know what music sounds like as it comes out of PC.  Terrible.  So at ten past nine on that morning I pulled the first CD out of the parcel handed to me by Jim the Drunk Postman and stuck in a stereo liberated from an office that smell of coffee, desperation and boredom – it was a promo CD of ‘Novocaine For The Soul’ and as that tinny piano sound at the start of it tinkled around the office I realised I was grinning from ear to ear.  A song that starts “Life is hard/and so am I/You’d better give me something/so I don’t die” has never made me smile so much.

Novocaine for the Soul – Eels (1996, Dreamworks Records)

As much ‘Novocaine for the Soul’ is utterly irresistible it turned out to not be the finest moment on the debut album ‘Beautiful Freak’ that followed about six weeks later.  That is full, chock full of songs that will make you grin from ear to ear.

You get ‘Susan’s House’ for starters, the lyrics spoken over a gentle piano, take us through us death, drug dealers and teenage parents as E questions the entire make up of society when he sees a young girl pushing a pram down the sidewalk, as her ponders “That must be her sister, Right?”

Susan’s House – Eels (1996, Dreamworks Records)

There genuinely isn’t a bad song on this album (although I can take or leave ‘Flower’), lyrically its outstanding.  Musically its inventive and so wonderfully textured, the piano is exactly right when it needs to be, the guitars heavy when they have to be, the drums alternate from being pounding to scratchy just because they can.

And then there is E’s voice.  It sounds world weary, exhausted, battered even.  But yet, there is something incredibly addictive about his voice.  The way that one moment he will sound fragile and emotional and the next he’ll sound like a teenager high on sugary drinks.  Something that nobody has really achieved since Kurt Cobain in his heyday and that is what helps makes this album very nearly perfection.

Mental – Eels (1996, Dreamworks Records)

1 Comment

  1. JC says:

    Novocaine For The Soul is other-wordly. The rest of the album I can take in smaller doses, although fair play for coming up with ‘My Beloved Monster’ and making good cash from it when it was use in Shrek.


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