The One Word Countdown – #34

Inspired by a murderous cat….

Flyswatter – Eels (2000, Dreamworks Records, Taken from ‘Daisies of the Galaxy’)

Points 111

A few weeks ago it was time for the annual school summer production.  This years theme was ‘Music through the Decades’ and my daughters class had been given the fifties.  She had to learn dance moves to two songs, ‘Jailhouse Rock’ by Elvis and the Hand Jive from the Grease Soundtrack.  It was a fairly enjoyable production until about twenty minutes from the end when something distinctly off script was going in on the left-hand side of the audience. 

There is lots of squirming and shuffling from the audience, and now a few tuts and whispers and glares are being shot over to the left hand part of audience from the right hand side.  A lot of hands are swishing and swaying.  It’s not in time with the music, so it is clear something is amiss. 

People are actively getting up and moving now and suddenly I see the reason why, a dad has unknowingly moved a stone from the grass and disturbed a huge nest of ants, which turn out to be those irritating flying ones and they are now swarming and landing in peoples hair and crawling up trouser legs and on occasion in some coffee. 

Despite all this the Year Two class continue their rather splendid dance performance to Steps’ version of ‘Tragedy’ unperturbed, much to their credit. 

According to Mark ‘E’ Everett ‘Flyswatter’ was inspired by watching his cat stalking and maiming various creatures in his basement one afternoon.  What E was doing in that basement that afternoon is not recorded.  ‘Flyswatter’ sees a slight change in direction for Eels, they stood on the cusp of brilliance after recording a huge hit with ‘Mr E’s Beautiful Blues’ but ‘Flyswatter’ sounds more like the work of Elliot Smith than perhaps anything else that band had previously recorded

Mr E’s Beautiful Blues – Eels (2000, Dreamworks Records, Taken from ‘Daisies of the Galaxy’)

There were a couple of other Eels tracks with One Word Titles that were considered, although I had to disqualify my original choice, as I forgot it had ‘Part 1’ shoved on the end of it.

Souljacker (Part 1) – Eels (2001, Dreamworks Records, Taken from ‘Souljacker’)

Mental – Eels (1997, Dreamworks Records, Taken from ‘Beautiful Freak’)

Prizefighter – Eels (2009, Vagrant Records, Taken from ‘Hombre Lobo’)

It’s Monday – Let’s Swear – #7

It’s A Motherfucker – Eels  (2000, Dreamworks Records)

I mean it’s a horrible word, when it’s used incorrectly.  Like perhaps, when Fred Durst uses it in a song or perhaps when its repeated fifty times in a film starring Liam Neeson for no reason or a 13 year old calls you it because you won’t buy him some cider from a council estate Bargain Booze store.

But in can be a beautiful word, like here, when Mark Everett or E as he likes to be called, uses because it’s the only word suitable to sum up how terrible he is feeling.  

Because folks, the motherfucker in this case is life and everything in it.  You probably expect, given the title, this to be an angry rant at the world and it general shittiness, but it isn’t.  Its two minutes of a bare stripped back piano with strings forlornly pining away behind it and its heartbreakingly beautiful.  Its also one of the saddest songs out there painting a vividly sparse picture of an emotionally fragile man who is seemingly teetering on the edge of combustion through the stark loneliness of missing somebody as his barely sung lyrics about ‘talking to the walls’ bounce off of those sombre piano sounds.

‘It’s A Motherfucker’ is taken from the bands third album ‘Daisies of the Galaxy’ and it nestles nicely right in the middle of it, a moment of heartbreak in an album that is positively upbeat considering that one that preceeded it was about losing your mother to cancer.  Despite its title, this is a song that sort of feels insulting to its beauty to have included it in such a puerile series as this. 

Flyswatter – Eels (2000, Dreamworks Records)

I Like Birds – Eels (2000, Dreamwork Records)

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)