Eels
Electro-Shock Blues


5.0
classic

Review

by letsgofishing USER (44 Reviews)
February 26th, 2011 | 21 replies


Release Date: 1998 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Art doesn’t get much more meaningful than this.

We humans have a tendency to romanticize death, to wrap in some elegant and dainty little package and treat it as the end of some grand adventure. Years ago, someone even had the nerve to compare it a period, and unsurprisingly the cliché stuck. But I hypothesize that there is nothing romantic about death at all, that to be so bold, it is the very opposite of romantic, and if it were the period at the end of our sentence, it would jumble up the words, misplace the vowels, remove the commas, and add several unneeded profanities. Generally speaking, death is an ugly thing, and it has a tendency to dishevel our lives and turn them inside out. It’s called grief, and it is in the middle of this torrent of grief that Mark Everett wrote Electro-Shock Blues, the most devastating, yet life-affirming album of our time.

Following a tragic winter break where both Everett’s sister committed suicide and his mother passed away from cancer, Everett wrote the record. There is a general sense that the songs written were not meant originally for entertainment or even distribution, that they were used solely to cope. The album starts grimly enough, the first song detailing his sister’s suicide, and within the first minute and a half it already sounds like Everett is about to crack, his scratchy yet warm voice flexing unsteadily as he sings. The songs don’t lighten up from there, as he moves briskly to his sister’s funeral, to his mother starving in a hospital room, and to his clinical depression and back.

The concept of “death” has been done several times in alternative music history, but rarely have any of the other attempts reached quite this magnitude of effectiveness. I believe this is because there is no barrier presented between you and Everett’s emotions. You do not so much listen to the record, as the record ebbs into you. The bare chord does little to shield you when Everett reads his sisters suicide note in the opening track “ My name’s Elizabeth, my life is *** and piss”. When “3 Speed’s” lone guitar breaks down into Everett’s self musings “ Life is funny, but not ha ha funny, peculiar I guess, you think things are going all my way, then why am I such a ***ing mess?” you can’t help but feel for him. And nothing quite hurts like the line “and strangers break their promises, you won’t feel any… you won’t feel any pain.” In “The Dead of Winter”

It almost seems miraculous how the album keeps itself from being a completely morose experience, but observing Everett’s style of twisted pop, it’s not miraculous at all. From the narcotic pop experience of “Cancer For The Cure” to the offbeat wild jazz of “Hospital Food” and even the almost joyful jam “Last Stop:” Everett somehow keeps things just light enough to keep the record enjoyable. “My Descent Into Madness” manages to fit Everett’s depression into the line “Voices tell me I’m the ***” and as wildly amusing as that line is, you also never lose track that this is some sardonic musings of a guy who just lost his mother and his sister, the albums strikes a painful yet perfect balance. More effectively put, nothing ever seems magnified or exaggerated, just realistic.

The album climax’s with six mostly acoustic pieces that seems either leave you a quivering mess, or more realistically just cause you to stare at your pasty white ceiling and sigh. “Climbing to the moon” is a tragically beautiful expression of escapism, which finds Everett just starting to accept his sister’s death. Ant Farm is devastating simple, and just as devastatingly honest “ I hate a lot of things, but I love a few things, and you are one of them” transposing the image of Everett graveside, or perhaps just laying on his slovenly kept bed. “Dead Of Winter” is the musical equivalent of being punched in the gut, a hopeless, yet powerful experience, narrating Everett’s mother’s death.

It’s hard to imagine if the album would be nearly as powerful or even worth experiencing without the last track “P.S You Rock My World.” For 15 straight songs, Everett has grimly torn you apart into several pieces, with little to none optimism present. It’s almost a shock when the opening chords of the song burst out, as they are degrees lighter than anything heard previously on the album, instantly presenting the song as something entirely different, like the sun leaking through your dusty shades on a Sunday morning. Everett almost triumphantly opens “I was at a funeral the day I realized, I wanted to spend my life you.” And seconds later beckons the strings in with “I figured while everyone was dying, maybe it’s time to live” What further separates Electro Shock Blues from almost every other work of its kind is that its conclusion is not that death is not a romantic affair, but rather that,on the contrary, life is a very romantic affair. The album drags you through varying levels of defeat, but ends in a remarkable triumph. And even if it’s as simple as Everett finally walking through his front door, it’s one of the most stunning victories ever put to music.

“Maybe it’s time to live”

Approximately a year ago, one of my better friends committed suicide. Arrested for under aged drinking and driving under the influence, he lost the ability to join the marines, a plan he boasted about since he hit the age of 13. And now, in his senior year, his plan for life digressed into nothing, and feeling existentially meaningless, well let’s just say that the beam on the ceiling easily supported his weight. After learning about it the next day, I did what I always did on a ***ty day. Closed my bedroom door, put my headphones on and listened to Electro Shock Blues. I think when you tear it down to it’s simplest elements, what makes the album so damn successful isn’t the ingenuity, or the originality because honestly you won’t find any of it here. What you will find is that Everett doesn’t present himself as above you, or below you, or even separate from you. More as if he’s sitting right next to you, with those geeky square glasses he always wears, and that shaggy ‘I haven’t shaved in 6 years’ beard, saying “You know what, life sucks, it can be downright terrible, it’s enough to make you go mad, trust me, I know…but what in the hell are you doing here, life is still waiting outside, lets get up and ***ing live it”. Albums like this have the potential to carry you, and in an essence is what artistic expression is all about, sharing human experiences and emotions in a way that can potentially change lives. Needless to say, with a little degree of help from Electro Shock Blues, I did get past the death of my friend, it took weeks, but I think to a certain degree you always get past it.

I admit, this isn’t the most graceful review; to an extent this isn’t the most graceful album. On the contrary, in a metaphorical sense, both this review and the album can be represented by that random stranger who stumbles into your dorm at 4 in the morning, and having more drinks than Mel Gibson on a Jew rant, decides to reveal his life story to your already past out one night stand. But despite the inherent clumsiness, I think what Mark Everett and I are trying would go something like this

Enjoy life. Work hard. Have some fun. Occasionally listen to Electro Shock Blues; Otherwise, what the hell are we doing here?

It's a message worth listening to again and again.



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4.1
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Comments:Add a Comment 
letsgofishing
February 27th 2011


1705 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I had such a bad case of writer's block when it came to this review. Might end up changing a lot of it.



Well anyway, this album needs to be listened to by everybody so just go and buy it. Thanks for reading.

Yotimi
February 27th 2011


7668 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I never listened to anything after Beautiful Freak. I should probably change that

mvdu
February 27th 2011


992 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It's a very good CD that needs repeat listening to sink in. I'm sorry about your friend. The album definitely has a meaningful message.

mvdu
February 27th 2011


992 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album is also clearly their best IMO.

Yotimi
February 27th 2011


7668 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I love "Novacaine for the Soul" - don't know why I haven't listened to their other stuff

letsgofishing
February 27th 2011


1705 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yeah, this is leagues above Beautiful Freak. I would check out this and Blinking Lights, but I would definitely check out

this.



thanks mvdu, I really appreciate that.

Titan50
February 27th 2011


4588 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Haven't properly listened to this album yet (although I fucking love Last Stop)



But by jove, this is a fantastic review

AliW1993
February 27th 2011


7511 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Good review. I actually bought this yesterday, looking forward to listening to it!

vanderb0b
February 27th 2011


3473 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Really excellent review. While "P.S. You Rock My World" is one of my absolute favorite songs, I ultimately prefer Blinking Lights as an album.

letsgofishing
February 27th 2011


1705 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks everyone.



Give this record a chance, personally it doesn't matter how much I expand my musical palette, I always come back to this simple tragic album. It's probably my favorite record.

AggravatedYeti
February 27th 2011


7683 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

such an amazing lp

robin
February 27th 2011


4596 Comments


this album teeters on a classic for me all the time. so powerful.

Irving
Emeritus
February 27th 2011


7496 Comments


I pos-ed, but to be honest I felt that after a great introduction and a solid opening paragraph, you just ended up being a.) rambly and b.) very disorganized. The review also reads like an over-dramatized blogpost at times, and if you're aiming for a "professional-sounding" review, you should really be trying to avoid that.

For example:

Approximately a year ago, one of my better friends committed suicide. Arrested for under aged drinking and driving under the influence, he lost the ability to join the marines, a plan he boasted about since he hit the age of 13. And now, in his senior year, his plan for life digressed into nothing, and feeling existentially meaningless, well let’s just say that the beam on the ceiling easily supported his weight.

I feel really bad about using this as an example of the review's failings, but here we go. I (obviously, I hope) sympathize for your friend's death and can appreciate the poignancy in trying to make a review have a bit more personality, but the appearance of that block of text is so abrupt, jarring, and - to be honest - unnecessary. Your introductory life/death examination already did that.

In fact, even you realize it:

I admit, this isn’t the most graceful review; to an extent this isn’t the most graceful album.

To which I have two responses: a.) you're right, and b.) don't ever sell yourself short. Never never not ever. It makes you sound rambly and you lose all credibility when you do that.

Still, you've got some serious potential. Hope to read more from you soon mate.

kanecooper
February 27th 2011


630 Comments


i feel like i'm missing something because i've never got into this the way some people have

Tyrael
February 27th 2011


21108 Comments


I think you need to build a kind of emotional connection with this album, it's not very easy to understand it.

letsgofishing
February 27th 2011


1705 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Irving, first thanks so much for the POS.



second. Don't feel bad at all about using that as an example. I've been arguing whether or not I should have kept

that in since I entered the review.Your critique is exactly what I needed. Needless to say, if it's in the review, it's

touchable.







robin
March 1st 2011


4596 Comments


read this review through and personally i really like it. it's hard not to get personal with this album. E at his best for sure, i'm not sure i could re-five this for the simple reason i find it pretty hard-hitting to listen to and thus i dont do it too much anymore

AggravatedYeti
March 1st 2011


7683 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

^ album most certainly is a beast of temperament. If I'm all cheery sometimes this is not the way to go in the slightest.

Why I have Beautiful Freak.

letsgofishing
March 2nd 2011


1705 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yeah, I probably only listen to this album once or twice every couple of months. And even though it is emotionally

taxing, I find it completely worth it every time. I don't think a record has ever had more meaning to me than this one,

and that's an easy 5 in my book.

AcidCaravan
December 24th 2013


503 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

one of the most heartbreaking and harrowing albums ever. so beautiful and sad..it hurts



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