I had long heard of Eels but was actually completely unaware I had heard him, as I had never made the connection between “Last Stop: This Town,” which I vaguely remember from High School, and Eels the band name. So all this time I thought Eels was something else but I had actually heard what I assume is their biggest hit. That was as surprise.
Imagine if ’90s Beck had amalgamated his contrasting singer-songwriter and “junk culture” personas on one record, but had really backed off the samples and the hip hop influence of the latter and you get some idea of what Eels sounds like on this record. In fact, the influence of Beck seems so prominent that it feels like it’s a problem, until you realize that this guy was recording and releasing records under a different name at the same time as Beck began releasing his earliest stuff. So I have no idea who influenced who, or if they even knew each other. They both grew up in the same area but Everett is 7 years older than Beck. Who knows?
Anyway, Everett has a good sense of melody. Much like with Beck’s music, there is often so much going on that you forget to listen to the lyrics and don’t really worry about them. I think they’re decent but I really haven’t been paying attention.
The arrangements run the gamut: sometimes they are feel like slightly more conservative versions of the kind of genre-mashing that Beck was doing a little prior to this, sometimes it’s closer to Beck’s chamber pop side. They’re varied enough that you don’t get bored. Though Everett’s melodies are strong I can imagine that 16 tracks would get tiring if every arrangement was similar.
Because I am a Beck fan, heard him first, and heard him often, I have a really hard time separating this album, but I suspect it’s its own thing and my references to Beck are primarily from my own personal experience and not quite as real as they seem to be. But despite the seeming heavy Beck influence – perhaps because of it – I find myself enjoying this record a lot more than some of the poppier, more critically revered indie pop of the same era. (I am thinking of the Elephant 6 bands, whom I respect but don’t really love but who critics love, for example.) So, whether or not this is derivative, it is right up my alley.