Electro-Shock Blues

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Electro-Shock Blues
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 21, 1998
GenreIndie rock
Eels chronology
Beautiful Freak
Electro-Shock Blues
Daisies of the Galaxy
Singles from Electro-Shock Blues
  1. "Last Stop: This Town"
    Released: September 14, 1998
  2. "Cancer for the Cure"
    Released: November 30, 1998
  3. "Climbing to the Moon"
    Released: 1998 (promo)
  4. "3 Speed"
    Released: 1998 (promo)

Electro-Shock Blues is the second studio album by American rock band Eels. It was released in the United Kingdom on September 21, 1998 and October 20 in the United States by record label DreamWorks.

Background and content[edit]

Electro-Shock Blues was written largely in response to frontman Mark Oliver Everett's (more commonly known as E) sister's suicide and his mother's terminal lung cancer. The title refers to the electroconvulsive therapy received by Elizabeth Everett when she was institutionalized. Many of the songs deal with their decline, his response to loss and coming to terms with suddenly becoming the only living member of his family (his father having died of a heart attack in 1982; Everett, then 19 years old, was the first to discover his body).[citation needed]

Though much of the album is, on its surface, bleak, its underlying message is that of coping with some of life's most difficult occurrences. The record begins with "Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor", a sparse piece composed of one of his deceased sister's final diary entries. Later, the album's emotional climax is reached in two tracks: "Climbing to the Moon", which draws upon E's experiences visiting his sister at a mental health facility shortly before her death; and "Dead of Winter", a song about his mother's painful radiation treatment and slow succumbing. The album's last song, entitled "P.S. You Rock My World", is a hopeful bookend to "Elizabeth", containing subtly humorous lyrics that describe, among other things, an elderly woman at a gas station honking her car at E, incorrectly assuming he is the attendant, and E's decision that "maybe it's time to live".[citation needed]

According to the Eels official website, the song "Baby Genius" is about E's father, Dr. Hugh Everett III, a quantum physicist who authored the Many Worlds Theory.[citation needed] However, Jim Lang, who helped with the song, believed it was about Eels former bassist, Tommy Walter.[1] "Baby Genius" has, as the basis for its melody, the carol "O Sanctissima".[citation needed]


At the time of the album's recording, the only official Eels members were E himself and drummer Butch Norton, as Tommy Walter had left the band. Therefore, the recording features guest appearances by T-Bone Burnett, Lisa Germano, Grant Lee Phillips and Jon Brion.[citation needed]


Electro-Shock Blues was released September 21, 1998 by record label DreamWorks. In addition to CD and cassette releases, it was also released on vinyl. This version included two 10" 33 RPM discs on see-through blue vinyl, limited to a small pressing.

Commercially the album didn't fare well, selling considerably less than Beautiful Freak.[citation needed]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[2]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music5/5 stars[3]
Entertainment WeeklyA−[4]
The Guardian4/5 stars[5]
Los Angeles Times4/4 stars[6]
Q3/5 stars[8]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[9]
The Village VoiceB[11]

Electro-Shock Blues was well-received by critics. Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times called it "a brilliant work that combines often conflicting emotions so skillfully that you are reminded at times of the childhood innocence of Brian Wilson, the wicked satire of Randy Newman and the soul-baring intensity of John Lennon."[6] Marc Weingarten of Entertainment Weekly wrote that while the album "lays bare the horrors of terminal illness in songs that shift from clinical to disconsolate", its "real feat is in making death life-affirming".[4]

Colin Cooper of Stylus Magazine, in a retrospective write-up of Electro-Shock Blues, described it as "an album that reeks of classic on all levels: scene is set, tone established, problem arisen, grappled, fought (nearly lost) and eventually—joyously—overcome."[12] Sputnikmusic reviewer Robin called it "deeper than some ironic indie pop record: it's E's honest smack of tough love, and he is his own recipient."[13]


The Daniel Johnston song "Living Life" was played often on the Electro-Shock Blues tour, eventually seeing a studio release in 2004 on the tribute compilation Discovered Covered – The Late Great Daniel Johnston.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by E (Mark Oliver Everett) except as noted.

1."Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor"2:08
2."Going to Your Funeral Part I" (E, Jim Jacobsen, Parthenon Huxley)2:37
3."Cancer for the Cure" (E, Mickey Petralia)4:46
4."My Descent Into Madness" (E, Prince Paul, Dan Nakamura, Michael Simpson)3:54
5."3 Speed"2:45
6."Hospital Food" (Butch, E, Jim Lang)3:23
7."Electro-Shock Blues" (E, Petralia)2:29
8."Efils' God" (E, Simpson)3:19
9."Going to Your Funeral Part II" (E, Jacobsen)1:30
10."Last Stop: This Town" (E, Simpson)3:27
11."Baby Genius" (E, Lang)2:04
12."Climbing to the Moon"3:38
13."Ant Farm"2:11
14."Dead of Winter"2:59
15."The Medication Is Wearing Off" (E, Petralia)3:51
16."P.S. You Rock My World"3:08


Additional musicians
  • Jon Brion – Chamberlin and Hammond organ on "Climbing to the Moon"
  • T-Bone Burnett – bass on "Climbing to the Moon"
  • Lisa Germano – violin on "Ant Farm"
  • Parthenon Huxley – guitar on "Going to Your Funeral Part I"
  • Jim Jacobsen – bass and keyboards on "Going to Your Funeral Part I", clarinet on "Going to Your Funeral Part II", arrangements
  • John Leftwich – upright bass on "Ant Farm" and "Dead of Winter", bowed bass on "Dead of Winter"
  • Elton Jones – backing vocals on "Last Stop: This Town"
  • Bill Liston – saxophone on "Hospital Food"
  • Volker Masthoff – vocals on "My Descent into Madness"
  • Cynthia Merrill – backwards cello on "Efils' God"
  • Grant-Lee Phillips – electric guitar, banjo, backing vocals on "Climbing to the Moon"
  • Stuart Wylen – ½ Rhodes, guitar, alto and bass flutes on "The Medication Is Wearing Off"

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[14] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[16] N/A 35,000[15]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=Fj8DAwAAQBAJ&pg=PT154&lpg=PT154&source=bl&ots=ce-bup6bb1&sig=xvy6iAdEBlBrTxFPtor9gPVRIcE&hl=en&sa=X
  2. ^ Prato, Greg. "Electro-Shock Blues – Eels". AllMusic. Retrieved June 4, 2013.
  3. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8.
  4. ^ a b Weingarten, Marc (October 23, 1998). "Electro-shock Blues". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
  5. ^ O'Reilly, John (September 18, 1998). "Eels: Electro Shock Blues (DreamWorks)". The Guardian.
  6. ^ a b Hilburn, Robert (October 18, 1998). "What a 'Shock' to the System". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 4, 2013.
  7. ^ Dalton, Stephen (September 23, 1998). "Eels – Electro Shock Blues". NME. Archived from the original on August 17, 2000. Retrieved June 4, 2013.
  8. ^ "Eels: Electro-Shock Blues". Q (194): 104. September 2002.
  9. ^ DeCurtis, Anthony (October 5, 1998). "Eels: Electro-Shock Blues". Rolling Stone (798). Archived from the original on November 15, 2007. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
  10. ^ Lowe, Steve (October 1998). "Eels: Electro-Shock Blues". Select (100): 92.
  11. ^ Christgau, Robert (February 23, 1999). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved June 4, 2013.
  12. ^ Cooper, Colin (March 30, 2004). "Eels – Electro-Shock Blues – On Second Thought". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved June 4, 2013.
  13. ^ robin (August 30, 2010). "Eels – Electro-Shock Blues". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved July 15, 2015.
  14. ^ "British album certifications – Eels – Electro shock blues". British Phonographic Industry. Select albums in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Electro shock blues in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  15. ^ Taylor, Chuck (6 February 1999). "In the hunt for hits". Billboard. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  16. ^ "American album certifications – Eels – Beautiful Freak". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 

External links[edit]