Beautiful Freak is one of my favourite records of all time - its an album that swims in sadness and is simultaneously life-affirming. High hopes, then, for Souljacker. The good news is, er...its good. The bad news is, quite simply, its not as good.
The first thing to establish is that the turn for the rockier is not a problem with me. "Dog Faced Boy", "Souljacker Part 1" and "What Is This Note", the three tracks that take this direction, are all pretty cool. Equally, the opposite side is fine too - "Fresh Feeling" and "World of S#!t" are lovely love songs. In fact, there's nothing here to take particular exception too. Its even more eclectic than previous records. But there's not quite that touch of magic to it.
Frequently they plough the same territory as previous albums. "That's Not Really Funny" is the album's "My Beloved Monster" with its deliberately strange instrumental bits, but just isn't quite as inspired. "Friendly Ghost" is the I'm gonna-smile-anyway song. "Bus Stop Boxer" is the totally downcast, self-loathing song. And they're all perfectly fine, perfectly good - but don't I get the feeling Eels have done this better before? I mean, when I first heard this record I thought, rockier, more diverse - nice. But then I happened to slip on Beautiful Freak and I thought, its just not the same league, is it?
There's not that wide-eyed, tear-inducing, painful, beautiful, dashed-but-still-there hope of that record here. Its perfectly possible to make yourself like or even love Souljacker, because, taking the ingredients of each song, and seeing what they do, its well-executed, well-written and its good stuff. But it doesn't force you to just love it like Beautiful Freak does, isn't that incredible record. For that, unfortunately, its down to a respectable, but disappointing, 3 stars.