Electro-Shock Blues is more a reaction than an album, full of motion picture melodies, detached drumbeats and morbidly sad lyrics. It is in many ways a reaction to Mark “E" Oliver Everett (sole eels member) losing most of his family during a long winter. There’s anger, sadness, drug abuse and an imposing sense of fear in the voice and lyrics of E. Any album that begins with a boy finding his mother on the bathroom floor after a suicide is definitely one to mess you up.
But for an album with such a morbid tale to tell, E-SB has a very peaceful cover, a young child floating through space with his mother by his side and a dog on a string. The whole picture is premature, looking like it was painted by an 8 year-old. But when one gets down to listening, they actually might find many similarities. The emotion on the album, while very raw seems to be coming from a very young mind and more or less the album is very calming. Keep in mind it does have its brash, angry moments. The earliest example of this being Mark’s assault on his remaining family “Cancer for the Cure". Grinding gears and a horrible noise awaken the tune before a warped break beat joins in. Mark’s lyrics to this track are devious and well written, though the chorus gets a little repetitive. But when E’s voice is not lashing out towards family and life it can be found playing, mildly distorted amidst lush keyboards and simple samples, like on the extremely sad title track, Electro-Shock Blues. In all honesty E-SB is one of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard, touching on therapy, drug use and prayer all climaxing with the introduction of a mysterious vocal sample.
A ray of light comes in the head bopper Last Stop: This Town. Set to a slightly complex beat Last Stop soars with it’s almost music box-esque guitars and folky feel. Mark’s voice is hardly fitting for the tune though; it comes off more as a bad Louis Armstrong impersonator than an indie pop hero. In fact, to be quite honest E’s voice hardly ever fits his song style, though it seems to work a bit better on the slower tunes (namely the Title Track, Dead of Winter and Climbing Up to the Moon). To me E’s voice is like a chef with hands much too big; or a monster trying to fit in to society. It’s seems to be hard to work with, and almost awkward in a tight situation. But fortunately E saves it with his quirky, Beck influenced lyrics and tight electronic beats.
By the time the album ends, E has regained composure, it ends with P.S. You Rock My World, an uplifting ballad with lyrics extremely different from the disturbing album opener Elizabeth on the Bathroom floor. The whole feel of the lyrics is very real, Mark goes through something we all must and comes out on top. Though the album, musically is no masterpiece, the beats work and it is extremely emotional. Unfortunately, overall, though the feel is extremely sad, parts can be a bit cheesy, not a good combo. E is a great song writer, but can’t save his album from faltering in areas. About half is gold and the other is decent. 3.5/5 for me.