Zachary Cole Smith has overcome a multitude of problems to make this intensely powerful album
Album review: Eels - 'Hombre Lobo'
The veteran alt.poppers’ seventh album may sound familiar, but it’s still no howler
Last year E subscribed to the unwritten rule that a greatest hits release marks the point after which all acts apply the artistic handbrake. From there on in, acts go gannet-grabbing from their back catalogue to create music that fans will adore and the rest of the world will ignore. As if to prove the theory, there’s nothing on ‘Hombre Lobo’ (Spanish for werewolf) that couldn’t be constructed by breaking down the DNA of the previous six Eels albums and repiling the strands up in some melodically fresh but warmly recognisable way.
Not that a lack of invention ruins the enjoyment – E has such a pedigree that his beard-snores are more tuneful than the output of most musicians’ entire careers. Thus previously trodden Eels paths are re-rambled with welly-striding confidence. ‘All The Beautiful Things’ dusts off the twig-fragile baby guitar plinks from ‘Packing Blankets’ (on ‘Daisies Of The Galaxy’), while the crunchy ‘Fresh Blood’ revisits the John Parish-assisted spook of 2001’s ‘Souljacker’.
The song shares ‘Souljacker’’s enjoyably sinister tone – but rather than plumbing the dark depths of his own sorrow in the lyrics, as he has done to captivatingly intense effect on most of his previous albums, here E howls like a bush-lurking man-wolf and sounds like he’s having the most fun ever – “Aroooooo!”. ‘The Longing’ slows affairs right down, while ‘Prizefighter’ is a rollickin’, mechanical bull-riding Chuck Berry-esque rollover that’s as conventional a beat-rock song you’ll hear this side of an American theme bar jukebox.
It’s very much a case of boundaries thoroughly un-shoved, then. But in this age of rapidly decreasing standards of recreational narcotics, it’s great to have one E in our lives that we can rely on. Here’s to many more beautiful days – goddamn right.
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