Eels (band)

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Eels
Eels at Birmingham Town Hall 26Feb2008.jpg
Birmingham Town Hall, February 2008 (left to right): The Chet and E
Background information
Origin Los Feliz, California, United States
Genres Alternative rock, lo-fi
Years active 1995–present
Labels DreamWorks, Vagrant, EWorks
Members E
The Chet
Knuckles (Derek Brown)
Honest Al
P-Boo (Mike Sawitzke)
Past members List of all members

Eels (often typeset as eels or EELS) is an American alternative rock band, formed in California in 1995 by singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Mark Oliver Everett, better known as "E" (son of famous physicist Hugh Everett III). Band members have changed across the years, both in the studio and on stage, making Everett the only official member for the most of the band's work. Often filled with themes about family, death and lost love, Eels' music straddles a wide range of genres, which is evidenced with the peculiar musical style of every album. Since 1996, Eels has made eleven major studio releases, The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett (2014) being their most recent release.

Eels appear on several film soundtracks, including Scream 2, American Beauty, Road Trip, Holes, The Anniversary Party, Knocked Up, Yes Man, The End of Violence, Hellboy II, Hot Fuzz, Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D, Charlie Bartlett, Enough Said, Delivery Man, and the first three Shrek films.

Recording history[edit]

E solo records[edit]

In 1992, Polydor released A Man Called E under the name E. The single "Hello Cruel World" was a minor success. Touring to support the album, E opened for Tori Amos. A Man Called E was followed by Broken Toy Shop in 1993. This year also marked the beginning of E's collaboration with drummer Jonathan "Butch" Norton. After Broken Toy Shop, E was released from his record deal with Polydor. E himself has recovered two of the songs ('The Only Thing I Care About' and 'Manchester Girl') from Broken Toy Shop for his own live shows with the Eels.

Beautiful Freak[edit]

Eels were officially founded when Butch and E met Tommy Walter. The name "Eels" was chosen so that the band's records would be close to E's solo records in an alphabetical ordering, although it was too late realized that numerous Eagles and Earth, Wind and Fire releases were in between.[1] Eels became one of the first groups to sign a record deal with DreamWorks Records, followed by Elliott Smith.

In 1996, the band released their debut album Beautiful Freak, a melancholy pop record with tormented lyrics. The singles "Novocaine for the Soul", "Susan's House" and "Your Lucky Day in Hell" achieved modest national and international success, winning the Best International Breakthrough Act award at the 1998 BRIT Awards.

In 1996 and 1997, Eels toured extensively to support the album, playing at many festivals including The Jizz Fest 1997, which was controversial at the time given that 'The Jizz Fest' prior to this was accepted only gay bands, and building their name as a live act in the United States and Europe. In September 1997, Walter quit the band (or was fired, according to some accounts).

"My Beloved Monster" was featured on the soundtrack for the DreamWorks movie Shrek. Two other songs from the album, "Not Ready Yet" and "Guest List", were featured in the fifth season of the television show Homicide: Life on the Street. The song "Your Lucky Day in Hell" also achieved moderate success, and was used in the horror movie Scream 2.

Everett wrote the song "Beautiful Freak" for a girlfriend, and he jokingly remarks in his memoir Things the Grandchildren Should Know (2008), "Perhaps if I hadn't referred to her as a 'freak' she'd still be my girlfriend". The song appears in Hellboy 2: The Golden Army.

Electro-Shock Blues[edit]

Following the success of Beautiful Freak, E experienced a difficult time in his personal life. His sister committed suicide, and his mother was diagnosed with cancer. These events inspired him to write Electro-Shock Blues, which focuses on his family, which he had never written about previously, bar perhaps the song "Fitting In With The Misfits" from his 1992 solo album A Man Called E, written in the form of a letter to his mother. "Electro-Shock Blues" was released in 1998. The album deals with many difficult subjects including suicide, death, and cancer. The tragedy of Everett's father's death became prominent once more in the context of his mother's pending death and his sister's suicide, and as a result the song "Baby Genius" is written for Hugh Everett III (his father).

Contributions to the album were made by Jon Brion, Lisa Germano, Grant Lee Phillips, Dust Brother Michael Simpson, and T-Bone Burnett.

The single "Last Stop: This Town" saw minor success; "Cancer for the Cure", the second single from the album, was used on the American Beauty soundtrack.

Still a three-piece band on stage, Tommy Walter was replaced by Adam Siegel. Part of the American leg of the tour was cancelled after the death of E's mother. They returned to tour Europe later in the year, to open for Pulp.

Daisies of the Galaxy[edit]

In 2000, Eels released Daisies of the Galaxy. The album, which was recorded almost entirely in E's basement, is lighter and more upbeat than its predecessor. Everett noted, "if Electro-Shock Blues was the phone call in the middle of the night that the world doesn't want to answer, then Daisies of the Galaxy is the hotel wake-up call that says your lovely breakfast is ready". He was joined in the studio by Michael Simpson (Dust Brothers), Grant-Lee Phillips (Grant Lee Buffalo), and Peter Buck (R.E.M.). On the tracks "It's a Motherfucker" and "Selective Memory", E plays the same piano that Neil Young used on his classic album After the Gold Rush.

The first single, "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues", was co-written by Simpson and features the sound of his pager in the beginning. The song was not intended to be on the album, but the record company insisted on its inclusion. Therefore, it is not featured on the track listing but is instead listed as a "bonus track", separated from the rest of the album by 20 seconds of silence. E declared, "You can think of it as buying the album and getting a bonus track, or buying the single and getting a bonus album." The song also appeared on the Road Trip soundtrack and several of the film's cast members are featured in the music video. Mark Everett was against the inclusion of his song in the film, however it was used when his current publisher overruled his objections. Because of the use of profanity in "It's a Motherfucker" and "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues" ("Goddamn right, it's a beautiful day") a censored version was released. "It's a Motherfucker" was renamed to "It's a Monstertrucker" with E singing over instances of the word 'fuck' in a distorted voice. Dan Bartlett of the presidential campaign for then-Governor George W. Bush cited the album—which was reportedly given as a gift at a Democratic political event—as an example of obscenity-laden entertainment marketed to children.[2][3] This conclusion was due to the contrast between the aforementioned song title and the cartoon drawings on the album cover, which were inspired by children's books found in the estate of E's mother.

To promote Daisies of the Galaxy another tour took place across the United States and Europe, as well as their first visit to Australia. This time Eels were transformed into an 6-piece orchestra, including Lisa Germano. E also played some solo shows, opening for Fiona Apple.

Souljacker and Shootenanny![edit]

In 2001, Souljacker was released, an album with a heavier feel and more rock-oriented sound than Daisies of the Galaxy. John Parish, previously of PJ Harvey's band, co-wrote most of the songs and played guitar on the album and first part of the tour. After Parish became a father, he was replaced with Joe Gore for the American leg of the Bus Driving, Band Rocking Tour. Koool G Murder played bass and keyboards and joined Eels on tour, jokingly introduced by E as "the other guy". Wim Wenders directed the video for the first single, "Souljacker part I".

2003 marked the release of the album Shootenanny!. E now refers to the album as a break from recording the following Blinking Lights album. It was recorded live in the studio in only ten days. "Saturday Morning" was released as a single.

Butch was replaced on drums by Puddin'. In 2003, Eels did another big tour, the Tour of Duty. The live band consisted of E, Goldenboy (guitar), Koool G Murder (bass) and Puddin (drums). Later that year, E composed the score for the film Levity.

Blinking Lights and Other Revelations and Eels with Strings[edit]

Eels' next album, Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, was released on April 26, 2005; it was the band's first release for new label Vagrant Records. It is a 33-track double album. Contributions were made by Tom Waits, Peter Buck, John Sebastian (The Lovin' Spoonful), and Butch. A hand-written lyric-sheet to "In the Yard, Behind the Church" was sold on eBay for $544, which was given to charity.

The first tour in support of the Blinking Lights album, billed as Eels with Strings, featured primarily acoustic guitar-, organ- and piano-based performances by E backed by Allen 'Big Al' Hunter on piano and upright bass; Jeffrey Lyster (also known as Chet Atkins III or 'The Chet') on guitar, mandolin, pedal steel, musical saw and drums; and the string quartet of violinists Paloma Udovic and Julie Carpenter, violist Heather Lockie and cellist Ana Lenchantin.

The tour resulted in a live album, Eels with Strings: Live at Town Hall, recorded in New York City. The performance includes tracks from all of their albums, and was released on CD and DVD on February 21, 2006.[4]

Meet the Eels: Essential Eels Vol. I and Useless Trinkets[edit]

In early 2008 Eels released their first "greatest hits" compilation as well as a compilation of b-sides, rarities, soundtrack singles and unreleased tracks.

Meet the Eels: Essential Eels Vol. I spans the first decade of the Eels with singles from all their albums. Attached is a DVD featuring music videos and one live performance video. Useless Trinkets contains 50 B-sides and rarities and a DVD of their Lollapalooza 2006 performances.

To promote those releases the band went on world tour ("An Evening with Eels"). This time only The Chet joined E on stage, both playing a broad cross-section from the Eels repertoire on a variety of instruments. The concerts also featured The Chet reading excerpts from E's autobiography, Things the Grandchildren Should Know. On this tour, the band released a live CD/DVD package of Eels' 2006 performance at the London AstoriaLive and in Person!), documenting a show from the second tour in support of Blinking Lights and Other Revelations.

The soundtrack of the 2008 Jim Carrey comedy film Yes Man features nine songs by the Eels, including "Man Up," a brand new song.[5]

Concept album trilogy: Hombre Lobo, End Times, and Tomorrow Morning[edit]

Hombre Lobo, the seventh Eels studio album, was released on June 2, 2009. The album comprises twelve new songs.[6] "Hombre Lobo" is Spanish for "wolf man" or "werewolf" and may be a reference to E's unusually long beard which he originally grew when writing the song "Dog Faced Boy". On March 31, 2009, the band made the track "Fresh Blood" available on Spinner.com,[7] explaining that the song would be the lead single for the album. A Jesse Dylan-directed music video was released on April 29, 2009 as well.[8] The album was released as a single-disc CD and a deluxe edition with a DVD.[9] In September 2009, Eels released a music video for "That Look You Give That Guy" featuring Bobby, Jr., E and "Top Chef" host, Padma Lakshmi.[10]

While promoting this album, Eels released the live EP The Myspace Transmissions Session 2009 on October 14, 2009.

On October 14, 2009, the band's website announced that a new Eels album entitled End Times would be released on January 19, 2010. It was largely recorded on a four-track recorder and is based on the themes of broken love.[11] Three album tracks—"Little Bird", "In My Younger Days", and "A Line in the Dirt"—were made available as music videos or promotional downloads prior to the release of the album. Once again, Butch contributed drums to "A Line in the Dirt". On January 19, 2010, End Times was released. Mark Oliver Everett has made no comment on touring and there is no tour scheduled to begin.[12]

A second 2010 album was announced on May 20, 2010—Tomorrow Morning was described as "final installment of a trilogy that began with Hombre Lobo and End Times." The three albums respectively explore themes of desire, loss, and redemption.[13] A world tour, the first since 2007's An Evening With Eels tour, was announced at the same time. This tour once again featured the Chet on various instruments, alongside Koool G Murder on bass, trilogy drummer Knuckles on drums and a new member, P-Boo, on guitar. During this tour, E wore a white jumpsuit and bandana, and handed out ice cream at each performance.

Wonderful, Glorious[edit]

On February 5, 2013, the 10th Eels studio album was released, titled Wonderful, Glorious.[14] The first single of the album 'Peach Blossom' premièred on Soundcloud on November 6, 2012.[15] A month later, on December 4, 2012, the official video was released on Stereogum.[16] The second single, 'New Alphabet' was streamed pre-release on December 12, 2012 on Spinner.com[17]

Cold Dead Hand[edit]

On March 25, 2013, the band released a parody music video called "Cold Dead Hand" through Funny or Die, with Jim Carrey replacing Everett on vocals. The song and video, set as a musical act during the variety program Hee Haw, lampoons American gun culture, and specifically former NRA spokesperson Charlton Heston.[18]

Discography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Everett, Mark Oliver: Things the Grandchildren Should Know, Page 110, Picador 2009.
  2. ^ Elizabeth, Mary. "A campaign's dog days". Archive.salon.com. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  3. ^ "Offensive CD Distributed At Gore's Convention". Web.archive.org. 2000-11-20. Archived from the original on 2000-11-20. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  4. ^ "Eels Get Tangled In Strings On Live CD/DVD". Retrieved 2005-12-15. 
  5. ^ "Zooey Deschanel, Eels Affirm Yes Man Soundtrack". Pitchfork Media. 2008-11-21. Retrieved 2008-12-23. 
  6. ^ ""Hombre Lobo" out on June 2nd, 2009". Official Eels Site. 2009-03-03. Retrieved 2008-03-03. 
  7. ^ "'Fresh Blood' on AOL Music". AOL Music. 2009-03-31. Retrieved 2009-03-31. 
  8. ^ ""Fresh Blood" music video". Stereogum. 2009-04-29. Retrieved 2009-04-29. 
  9. ^ "Hombre Lobo Deluxe Edition". Play.com. 2009-04-22. Retrieved 2009-04-22. 
  10. ^ "Eels, 'That Look You Give That Guy' – Video Premiere". Spinner.com. September 1, 2009. 
  11. ^ "Eels' 'End Times' Will Be "A Divorce Album With a Modern Twist"". Rock.about.com. 2009-11-16. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  12. ^ "End Times News". Eels. 2009-10-14. Retrieved 2009-10-14. 
  13. ^ Larsen, Peter (2010-08-04). "Eels Explore New Material at the Galaxy". O. C. Register. Retrieved 2010-08-04. 
  14. ^ "Wonderful, Glorious announced". Official Eels Site. 2012-10-22. Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  15. ^ "Eels - Peach Blossom by Vagrant Records on Soundcloud". Soundcloud.com/vagrantrecords. 2012-11-06. Retrieved 2012-12-12. 
  16. ^ "Eels – "Peach Blossom" Video (Stereogum Premiere) -- Song Premiere". www.stereogum.com. 2012-12-04. Retrieved 2012-12-12. 
  17. ^ "Eels, 'New Alphabet' -- Song Premiere". Spinner.com. 2012-12-12. Retrieved 2012-12-12. 
  18. ^ "Jim Carrey, Eels Team for Gun Culture Parody - Video". Rolling Stone. 2013-03-25. Retrieved 2014-04-17. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]