Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire
There is a conceit to Eels, and anyone who's listened to an album of their music will know what it is; Mark Everett only writes one song. If you stretch it, and I mean really stretch it, you could say he writes three. But one is all he needs. It can make an Eels marathon hard to stomach, and on occasion it makes an entire album hard to stomach, but it is a damn fine song, and at times it is uncommonly affecting. There's a reason an Eels song has appeared in each Shrek movie; they are emotive, affecting, and singer Everett has one of those voices, the ones with almost no technical range, but an emotional one you can't deny.
It's been four years since opus Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, and that was an album which had been in the works for something like a decade. Hombre Lobo is a lesser album in ambition, scope, size (Blinking Lights was a very full double-album), and execution, but that's not surprising. I don't think Everett's going to try to do better, only (relatively) different. Blinking Lights was a delicate album at times. This one isn't. It's more Eels taking a stab at garage rock, with some gentler numbers thrown in. While the whole album isn't stuffed with brilliance, I want to turn your attention to one song. "That Look You Gave That Guy" is as good as its title promises, and it illustrates all the strengths Eels have at their disposal.
It opens with a simple guitar progression, soothing without being utterly predictable. Everett's voice sounds, "I never thought that I could be so bold, to even say these thoughts aloud. I see you with your man, your eyes just shown, while he stands tall and walks proud. That look you gave you that guy, I wanna see, looking right at me." The lyrics are simple, and cut right to the heart of the song, the heart of the matter, the heart of Everett. If we've heard lyrics like, "I'm nothing like I'd like to be, I'm nothing much, I know it's true" from him before, and we have, they're still staggeringly effective. An Eels best of would be the same song 12 times, with the same mid-level tempo, and that same plaintative vocal, but it would be a wonderful, wonderful thing.