Simple, melodic bands are on the rise in the indie music scene as of late. Bands like the Unicorns and El Guapo, who happen to be electronically based, have made astounding leaps in popularity but still remain somewhat under the radar. The band known as EELS fall into this category: electronic lullabies sung under a sweet vocal tone ridden with morbid lyrics that has its own type of following, but is ultimately underappreciated by many. Mark Everett, descendent of the quantum physicist Hugh Everett III, always had a passion for music growing up, but it was shunned by his science-driven family, who found a musical career to be a waste of time. However, he moved to California and started a revolutionary electro-pop band in the early ’90s with such connections as Tori Amos in his corner.
Beginning as “A Man Called E,” he released his first record in 1992, which reached little success, but did bring him into a scene with more prominent musical figureheads. In 1995, haunted by being identified by only one letter, he decided that a tour with a live band to back him up and a new name, EELS, is what was needed. His band mates included a man known as Wurlitzer on electric piano which was played through amp, a drummer named Butch (a.k.a Jonathan Norton), and bassist Tommy Walters. These four men revamped E’s older tracks as well as went on to make many, brilliant new ones. Today’s album of choice is Electro-Shock Blues which was released in 1998 in reaction to his mother’s battle with terminal lung cancer.
This album, due to its underlying meaning to E, himself, reaches a higher level of intimacy and passion as every song can be seen as a reflection to childhood, memories, or death. Stages which he was ultimately faced with are portrayed through his music, bringing a deeper side to his “simple” kinds of melodies. Song likes “3 Speed,” “Cancer for the Cure” and the title track, “Electro-Shock Blues” really illuminate the struggle Everett was faced with and the heartache that lingers not only in him forever, but on this empowering album.
Things can’t all be death and dying, some things must be taken with a grain of salt. Songs like “Hospital Food,” “Last Stop: This Town” and “Baby Genius” ring a happier, more light-hearted bell to give almost a comic relief to the depth of Electro-Shock Blues.
A personal favorite track from this record is “Climbing to the Moon.” Softly and beautifully the theme of being able to overcome obstacles and the pure optimism oozing from this song really shines light on the strength behind Everett and his music. “Ant Farm” and “Dead of Winter” are other examples of this mastery in musical emotion.
Electro-Shock Blues is an album of a lifetime. Self-reflection and beauty are extremely prevalent in every track, with every word and what better way to bring in the spring than with something light, refreshing and meaningful. You can get more information on tours, merchandise and other EELS records via their web site www.eelstheband.com. EELS are a band to hold onto and keep up with, an A+!