Arts: Three men and a canary
Ben Thompson wises up to the gimmick gestures of the Eels
Saturday 01 February 1997
The Eels record for the Dreamworks label (a plucky independent concern operated by basement entrepreneurs David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Stephen Spielberg), who are clearly taking no chances with their talented proteges. Prior to the band making their entrance, the most officious roadie in rock history doesn't just put towels out for them, he tests their drinks to check for poison. A canary stands patiently in a cage at the side of the stage, ready to give up its life in the event of an enemy gas attack.
The desert-dry stage manner of songwriter/ guitarist/ hammond organ maestro E suggests that this band are well able to look after themselves however. Their singer may look like the forgotten lovechild of Damon Albarn and Derek Nimmo, but his voice has the happy ability to quote from a legion of distinguished West Coast forbears (Donald Fagen, Jackson Browne, Belinda Carlisle even) without ever sounding explicitly derivative. And their album, Beautiful Freak (to be released on 24 Feb), has enough deceptively simple melodies to keep the MTV nation whistling well into the next millennium
The Eels flout the restrictions of triohood with admirable pizazz; shifting seamlessly from one novelty to another - a telephone ("I'm kinda busy right now, I'm trying to rock London"), a banjo, a manhole cover, a jug of pebbles poured over the cymbals - without ever losing the plot of the song. The only question that remains to be answered, is, well, what is the plot of the song? What exactly is it that is being got across so clearly and with such great proficiency here?
Comparisons with Beck are erroneous as the boy Hansen's grand mission to unite the modern and the archaic is his and his alone. There is a worrying absence of original thought at the heart of a song like "Guest List" and it seems strange that the number which seems to bring the most intense response from the band themselves is a semi-ironic cover version (a virus in American music at the moment - see also Ben Folds Five's "Video Killed The Radio Star") of Sophie B Hawkins' "Damn, I wish I was Your Lover". A sneaking suspicion remains that, after Nirvana, no new American band wants to overdraw on its emotional capital.
ReviewThese heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Jack the Ripper: Scientist who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
- 2 Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake online report claiming artist's identity has been revealed
- 3 Drink alcohol and eat meat to improve male fertility - but cut down on coffee, studies suggest
- 4 Former East 17 frontman Brian Harvey turns up at Downing Street and 'demands to speak to Prime Minister'
- 5 The inventor of the Facebook 'like' button says he never made a 'dislike' button because he feared the 'unfortunate consequences'
Doctor Who, Flatline - review: Clara isn’t half bad as the Time Lord
Downton Abbey review series 5, episode 5: Period drama falls disappointingly flat
Star Wars memorabilia called a 'bit of plastic' on Antiques Roadshow by Fiona Bruce valued at £50,000
Fury, film review: Brad Pitt is intriguing as unsympathetic war hero
Star Wars Episode 7 has almost finished filming
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
Lord Freud: Tory welfare minister apologises after saying disabled people are 'not worth’ the minimum wage
Lord Freud hangs on as MPs of all parties 'call for his head' over disability comments