Finer Feelings #5: eels – With Strings: Live At Town Hall (2006)

You might think it an unusual choice to pick a live album or a compilation to be on my list of favorite albums of the decade.  However, given the unique character of eels’ live performances (and, hence, this record), eels With Strings completely deserves its spot so high on my list.  As its name implies, the album features Mark Oliver Everett backed by a small string section.  Since most eels albums revel in unusual samples and audio tricks, the organic nature of the instrumentation on these tracks reinvents them in a very fresh manner.  Though the set focuses mainly on E’s already mid-tempo or ballad songs, it’s the completely rearranged tunes that stand out.  Shootennany’s “Dirty Girl” gets turned into a painfully heartbreaking confessional, while “Flyswatter” decays into screeching, col legno shrieks before being twisted into the opening strains of a stripped-down “Novocaine For The Soul.”  eels With Strings was recorded while E was touring for Blinking Lights And Other Revelations, so a lot of the set favors that album.  “Things The Grandchildren Should Know” and “If You See Natalie,” aside from being two of E’s finest written songs, appear here in rousing, masterful versions.  The only thing that could be interpreted as disappointing is the nagging idea that eels are not likely to ever tour like this again.  E’s fickle managerial decisions can lead to questionable results sometimes, but eels With Strings is proof that he’s not out of great ideas just yet.  Two years after this disc’s release saw a proper eels best-of, Meet The eels.  If you ask me, though, I’d say that E himself would rather have this live account serve as a newcomer’s entry point, since it presents a much purer vision of his project: unexpected and unexplainable, but always challenging and creative.

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~ by E. on November 30, 2009.

One Response to “Finer Feelings #5: eels – With Strings: Live At Town Hall (2006)”

  1. “I’d say that E himself would rather have this live account serve as a newcomer’s entry point”
    E (not you, the OTHER E) is such a whack, who knows WHAT he’d like.

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