By: Sarah Moore
Meet the Eels: Essential Eels 1996-2006, Volume 1 (released January 15 by Geffen Records) spans the first decade of the band led by the man called "E" (aka Mark Everett). Beginning with perhaps their best-known hit, "Novocaine for the Soul," the compilation includes handpicked singles from the psychedelic rockers. E's signature sound takes ostensibly innocent and youthful sounds (a music box, toy piano) and warps them into creepy, dark territory.
The first disc is 24 tracks that line up from the Eels' debut, Beautiful Freak, and go in the order of release. The mood shifts from dark and brooding (tracks from Electric-Shock Blues) to downright lighthearted (tracks from Daisies of the Galaxy). The second disc contains several music videos as well as one live track, "Dirty Girl," with commentary by E. Previously unreleased tracks on disc one include a cover of Missy Elliott's "Get Ur Freak On" and a Jon Brion remix of "Climbing to the Moon." The Missy cover contains psychedelic electronic music behind E's gruff sung-rapping. The Eels' combination of Americana, melancholy rock & roll, psychedelic pop and some fairly stripped-down folk brings to mind Cracker for the Americana-based songs in particular.
While Volume 1 seems fairly comprehensive, the album leaves out some important (and arguably better) tracks such as their cover of "16 Tons" and "Dog Faced Boy." However, this is what E has chosen to represent his first decade, and each song represents different approaches to his sound. At the very least, Disc One exemplifies E's songwriting talent. Most of the videos on Disc Two combine nonsensical imagery and intentionally weird filming methods. For example, the video for "Saturday Morning" has E making pancakes in a wooded shack and selling them on the side of the road. He then gets into the back of a truck where he's met by a clan of zombies, eventually becoming one of them. Another video, "Hey Man (Now You're Really Living)," is, as explained by E, a low budget affair merely utilizing a hand-held camcorder by E going around his house.
Some of the standout tracks for the Eels' noobs include "Souljacker Part 1," a hang-tough rockabilly punk statement that involves a most memorable bassline, and "Last Stop: This Town," with its comical, low bass vocal part. "Trouble With Dreams" uses E's favorite foreboding music box alongside ghoulish wails and screeching organ tones. This track typifies E's fascination with the strange, a vibe that permeates this new compilation.
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