Beautiful Freak



by ZEROthirtythree USER (12 Reviews)
January 14th, 2005 | 48 replies

Release Date: 1996 | Tracklist

Line Up:
E - Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards etc. (principle driving force)
Butch - Drums
Tommy - Bass

The Eels come from Echo Park, a Los Angeles suburb infamous for its drug dealing, low life and uneasy streets. But actually "The Eels" are, more or less, made up of just one man - the mercurial 'E' (known to the CIA as Mark Oliver Everett). The Eels are perhaps the contemporary band that are most obviously influenced by the Beatles. I've always regarded "E" as one of the best songwriters around in terms of pure melody, and he also curiously possesses both Lennon's sardonic wit and Paul McCartney's tweeness. Of course, such fandom is given the usual post-modern twist and comparisons come easy to the similarly styled ironic alternative darlings Pavement and Beck. The Eels do manage to capture both Stephen Malkmus' sense of melody and Beck's clever post-modern stylings.

Born April 9, 1963, in Virginia, Everett became interested in rock music at an early age via his sister's record collection, and began playing drums at the age of six (as well as tinkering on his family's piano). After his father's passing just a few years later, Everett began leading a troubled teenage life, being arrested and expelled from school. But the turmoil led to an even stronger interest in music for Everett, as he taught himself how to play his sister's guitar, and shortly thereafter wrote his own original compositions. Eventually "E" moved to Los Angeles where he knew not one person. There, he eventually meet the other members and recorded their impressive debut, "Beautiful Freak"

1. Novocaine For The Soul - Concise pop tunes form the backbone of this album, so it makes since that this song would start it. It is the strongest song on the album and the strongest single. "Novocaine For The Soul" is a grungy, tightly-wound slab that sounds like Nirvana with Randy Newman at the helm. The video can be viewed [URL=http://launch.yahoo.com/artist/videos.asp?artistID=1008169]here[/URL]. NFTS is extrememly catchy and I find myself constantly playing it. 5/5

2. Susan's House - "Susan's House" is almost as brilliant and also more intriguing, musically speaking, as the first song. It's a cool song which has a Bruce Hornsby style piano sound (actually a Gladys Knight piano sample) with a hip hop beat to it laced with acoustic bass. In an interesting twist the verses consist only of spoken word to a thudding drum-beat with lyrics narrating a trip to Susan's house, observing the terrible situation the world is in ("A kid asks do I want some crack/TV sets are spewing Baywatch through the window into black"). Sure, it is a little cliché but the contrast with the dinky chorus gives the song a fascinating charm. 5/5

3. Rags to Rags - This is the first song to be just mainly guitar. E's style of playing resembles Kurt Cobain's, in that it's simple yet effective. The drum loop in this song, adds little to it, and you can't even hear the bass. But the lyrics are honest, and that's why I enjoy the song. 3.5/5

4. Beautiful Freak - The title track unfolds like a dream, childlike piano and strings floating overhead like little fluffy clouds on a summer day. "Beautiful Freak" describes the misery of being an outsider, a universal quandary. Singing "Too good for this world/But I hope you will stay," E's touching revelations and gentle empathy are impossible to resist. Who, after all, doesn't respond to a pat on the back in these pressurized times? 4.5/5

5. Not Ready Yet - The only time the grunge stuff really works for this album is on the lengthy "Not Ready Yet" which features enough guitar overdubs to hold one's interest throughout. (It's the longest song on the album at 4:46) This song shows me how good of a guitarist E really is. Quite impressive that he wrote all those overdubs himself. 4/5

6. My Beloved Monster - This song appeared on the "Shrek" soundtrack. (The Eels do A LOT of soundtracks). It's a very short song at only 2 minutes, but it's insanely catchy. This song has some creative guitar work. I can't say that much about such a short song, so I'll let the rating speak for itself. 5/5

7. Flower - Yea, I love this song. This song first got me into The Eels. "Flower" loops a choir of nuns over a sparse mandolin riff, the song blossoming into a tough tale of emotional recovery. The drumming by Butch is unique and creative. And E's mandolin playing is simple, but effective. This song is supposed to be about E's ailing sister, who died shortly after the release of this album. A very depressing song :upset: 5/5

8. Guest List - "Guest List" includes an interesting harmonica solo, played by E, that suits the song well. It is a relatively sad song, as E's throaty voice sings "are you one of the beautiful people, is my name on the list, wanna be of the beautiful people, wanna feel like i'm missed." But overall the song sort of leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. 3.5/5

9. Mental - I enjoy the bass and drums in this song quite well. The guitar playing isn't bad itself. Again, E's playing is rather creative, and none of his work sounds much alike. The lyrics are pretty weak overall though, such as "they say i'm mental but i'm just confused, they say i'm mental but i've been abused, they say i'm mental 'cause i'm not amused by it all." 4/5

10. Spunky - Another tribute to E's sister. The piano playing is simple, and is just looped. I'm not sure if E is playing it or not. This is probably my least favorite track on the album. It barely tops 3 minutes, so it's quite short. Overall, it's not a very impressive song. 3/5

11. Your Lucky Day In Hell - This song was on the Scream 1 or 2 soundtrack. I can't remember. "Your Lucky Day In Hell" is another catchy pop tune. The stand-out track continues in a similar vein as "Susan's House" with a self-consciously lounge-core arrangement and the wittiest set of lyrics on the album; proving that he could be humorously self-depreciative as well as dourly self-obsessed. And the bass playing by Tommy is pretty dann impressive too. 5/5

12. Manchild - This has to be one of the most depressing songs I have ever heard. "Hold me in your arms, and let me be the one, who can feel like i am a child in love" = a very romantic lyric. The song is a very child-like ballad, that everyone can connect to. The guitar playing seems effortless and it adds a nice backround to the song. And so do the organs. But the main feature of the song is E's singing. It's the first, and obviously, the last time he really sings with a large amount of human emotion. A very moving track. 5/5

Though often bleak, Eels are not about misery, alternative-style. Through five years of therapy, E has learned to love life and conquer his depression. So while the line "When I came in to the world they slapped me, every day since then I'm slapped again," reeks of self-involvement, "But I know I'm gonna win" is the upbeat zinger. Eels take misery and upend it with humor and hope.

I give the album an overall score of 4.75/5. I hope you enjoyed the review. :)

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user ratings (287)

Comments:Add a Comment 
July 12th 2004


Good review :thumb:.

I've always been looking to get into this band, but I've never have gotten the chance to buy one of their albums. So, thanks this review only does them good.

July 12th 2004


i've seen Novacaine for the Soul playing on MTV2 a few times, but never knew the band name. i might check them out, as i quite like that song.

July 12th 2004


Nice review ZERO, very well done. My friend was telling me about this band, I'll look into them soon.

July 13th 2004


Thank you.

I got this cd for 6 dollars off amazon. It was an amazing deal. I think "Electro-Shock Blues" is The Eels best album, but "Beautiful Freak" is a good start.

Tangy zizzle
July 14th 2004


Top shelf review.

July 14th 2004


I really love this album, its one of the few akbums that actually deliver their intended message on me profoundly. Its also my favourite eels album, and the lyrics made it possible for me to appreciate it on first listen.
Really good review too

July 14th 2004


My girlfriend bought this record at a used cd store a few years back for about $2. Beautiful Freak is a really good album IMO, everyone should give it a listen you can find it pretty cheap nowdays.

Really good review Zero, :thumb:

August 7th 2004


[QUOTE=ZEROthirtythree]Thank you.

I got this cd for 6 dollars off amazon. It was an amazing deal. I think "Electro-Shock Blues" is The Eels best album, but "Beautiful Freak" is a good start.[/QUOTE]

My deal pwns yours. I just bought it for $4.50 AU, I dont think it's been played much at all either.

August 2nd 2005


I have only this album and i get the idea its the most popular and the music is great. Rags to Rags, Novocaine for teh Soul, sunsans house are great songs.

June 26th 2006


the opening track novocaine for the soul kicks solid a** ... its real creepy and witty

December 1st 2006


I heard this album when I was young and grew to love it. A classic album in my opinion. Strong lyrics pretty much all of the way through. Simplicity and beauty in the songs just sum up what everyone thinks they're going through in many of the songs. This is E's masterpiece.
My fave was "Ashes to ashes" but it's by the skin of the teeth cos all the songs are great.

September 9th 2012


Album Rating: 4.5

such a good album.

October 6th 2012


Album Rating: 4.5

masterpiece, e's best

October 6th 2012


Album Rating: 4.5

For sure.

March 19th 2013


Album Rating: 4.0

Bit late to this one but it's a really good review.

Great album too, been meaning to check The Eels out for a while and i'll have to check out the rest of their albums after this!

December 1st 2014


Album Rating: 4.0

A 90s classic

January 8th 2016


Haven't heard much of Eels at all, but Novocaine For The Soul is a great tune.

January 8th 2016


Album Rating: 4.5

Third best Eels after Electro-shock and Blinking Lights.

Daisies of the Galaxy would round off the top 4 Eels albums

January 8th 2016


Album Rating: 4.0

love this album. just barely doesn't make the 4.5

January 8th 2016


Album Rating: 4.5

Arcade surprised you don't rate Blinking Lights if ESB is your number one

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