Eels Shootenanny!

[Dreamworks; 2003]

Styles: alternative rock
Others: E, Cake, Beck, Blur

There is not a single album in my collection that I love as much as the second album by the Eels: Electro-Shock Blues. It is, in my eyes, the perfect pop album because it does that thing that pop music can do when it is at it’s best: capturing an impossible to describe feeling in a few song lines, a simple melody and a drum beat. In this case, Electro-Shock Blues was written after virtually everyone close to lead eels singer E. had died or was seriously sick. To be able to make a record about such an extreme situation that is both sad, beautiful, nice to hear, and even funny could only seem to indicate that E. was a magnificent musician. Nothing, back then, seemed to stand in the way of more amazing records by the Eels in the future.

However, the things that E. released after Electro-Shock Blues seemed to hint that it was difficult for him to write anything that could top his magnum opus. Daisies of the Galaxy, the record released after Electro-Shock Blues was a very good effort, and easily one of that year’s best records, but last year’s Souljacker had too many ‘fillers’ to be any competition to previous eels outings.

And now we have Shootenanny!, the fifth eels album, which is according to the man himself "a simple, electrically loaded but nice sounding record. Eels like a garage band with melodies." Well, it’s true that it is a simple and nice sounding record, like every Eels record, and it arguably has melodies, but that doesn’t make Shootenanny! a good album.

In fact, it’s a big disappointment.

The thing that misses most from Shootenanny! is E’s unique, dry sense of humor, which is the perfect antidote for the tough topics he writes his songs about (death, depression, suicide, cancer, and anything else that isn’t usually a topic of a typical Britney Spears song). Previously, E. could write a song about any heavy topic without sounding sentimental. Now, it seems that he lost that talent, and when he sings things like ‘I made mistakes / Everyone does / Don’t know why I did / I guess just because’ you know something went very wrong during the writing process for this record.

If Shootenanny! would have been the debut album from a young band it wouldn’t have been such a pain: either the band decided that they weren’t as good as they thought they were and they left to pursue careers in other fields, or they came to sense and made an excellent second album. The problem is that we know that E. did better things in the past. That we know that five years ago he wouldn’t have put a terrible song like "Rock Hard Times" or "Wrong About Bobby" on an album release, and that he wouldn’t have even dreamed of releasing an album with a black cover that only includes the words "Eels" and "Shootenanny!" in big capital letters.

Shootenanny! sounds predictable, boring and uninspired. If I was a bitter man I would put on Electro-Shock Blues and murmur about how things used to be better in the past. But I’m not like that. There is enough refreshing new music to cope.

But it remains a pity.

1. All In A Day's Work
2. Saturday Morning
3. Good Old Days
4. Love Of The Loveless
5. Dirty Girl
6. Agony
7. Rock Hard Times
8. Restraining Order Blues
9. Lone Wolf
10. Wrong About Bobby
11. Numbered Days
12. Fashion Awards
13. Somebody Loves You

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