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on March 15, 2004
I don't think America has ever fully understood Mark Oliver Everett (aka E or Mr. E) and the music he's made as part of the EELS. Shootenanny! is the band's 5th proper release and their most accessible to date. That being said, I don't think Shootenanny! is an attempt to get America to understand the EELS or for them to start selling millions of albums, but rather the opportunity for E to do something he doesn't normally do - write your typical pop/rock song without too much of the quirkiness that marked many of the band's previous releases, and for him to break free of the image of himself as a chronically depressed genius with a knack for turning generally positive phrases, such as "I love you," into some of the most devastating and defeating words ever. (Well, losing your father, mother, and sister - all within a year - will do that to you.)
"All In A Day's Work" begins Shootenanny! with a slow snarl of an electric guitar before the ominous bass guitar and drums take over darkly marching towards E's distorted vocals. The disc's single, "Saturday Morning," ironically enough is the most typical EELS track on Shootenanny! with E's switch to an almost taunting falsetto on the chorus over Butch's pounding drums leading to a wall of distorted guitars. "Love Of The Loveless" and "Rock Hard Times" despite their titles are two of the album's most upbeat and best tracks. "Loveless" includes typical EELS signatures - that casio keyboard and a bridge that slows the song to a crawl; and "Rock Hard" is one of the best unheard pop songs of all of 2003 with its bouncy rhythm, its bright electric guitar, its whistling guitars, and its chorus of self-empowerment: "everybody knows these are rock hard times / i gotta make it through / these are rock hard times." One of my favorite couplets of last year is in "Dirty Girl" with its opening lyrics: "i like a girl with a dirty mouth / someone that i can believe." "Agony" could have been on the EELS 2001 tortured opus Electro-Shock Blues (the disc written, recorded, etc around the loss of E's family) with it's vibraphone trill giving way to solitary lower chords on the casio followed by Butch's overpowering drums and the fuzzed electric guitar cutting through it all.
"Restraining Order Blues" follows in a line of tradition for E - a song that ends in "Blues" but isn't quite bluesy: Electro-Shock Blues title track, Daisies Of The Galaxy's "Grace Kelly Blues" & "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues," Soujacker B-side "Rotten World Blues," the Holes soundtrack cut "Mighty Fine Blues," and the E-scored Levity soundtrack piece "Post-Flashback Blues." "Lone Wolf" features an organ that wouldn't be out of place if it were a pedal steel or slide guitar and "Wrong About Bobby" sounds vaguely Elliott Smith-ish. There's something lurking under the surface to "Numbered Days" that is never fully realized accentuating its view that death is always around the corner. E resorts back to the falsetto and includes a string section in "Fashion Awards," a track about the recent glut of awards shows filling our airwaves and the emotions displayed on many of their podiums. Shootenanny! closes with the optimistic "Somebody Loves You" echoing "Love Of The Loveless" and its reassurance that we've gotta take care of ourselves and even though that somebody who loves us might just be ourselves, "you're gonna make it through."
Shootenanny! is a fine album that might disappoint a few long-time EELS fans since the despair isn't as pronounced and a lot of those little touches that mark most EELS releases are gone with production focused more on that of a live band rather than highlighting a glockenspiel, handbell, Wurlitzer, or particularly interesting keyboard line. E has claimed himself as "John Paul Sartre with a Marshall stack" and he wouldn't be entirely wrong as he rocks hard in these existential times.
Fave tracks: "Love Of The Loveless," "Dirty Girl," "Rock Hard Times."
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on August 11, 2003
Every review I've read of this disc has either lambasted it or lavished it with praise. Myself, I don't understand where the controversy is coming from; this is clearly the Eels' best effort to date. I've been listening to the band since 1998, and have always been disappointed with the press (or lack thereof) they have received. Before this disc, I would have named "Electro-Shock Blues" their best -- it dealt brutally honestly with extremely painful issues and managed to sound beautiful at the same time. But "ESB" had its weak spots -- and "Shootenanny!" doesn't (except, possibly, the title).
Every song has re-listening merit, from the grungy blues "All in a Day's Work" to E's traditional emotional-Pepto-Bismol closer, "Somebody Loves You". A personal favourite track of mine, and one that often receives the most vitriolic of compaints from reviewers, is "Fashion Awards". It's a wonderful satire, and, dammit, it sounds purdy too.
I love this album and you all should too.
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on July 15, 2003
First of all I can't believe this cd has been out for a month and I'm the first person to review it. The eels are one of my favorite bands and have been since their lead singer e had a solo career. I've stuck with them through some of their less then exciting style changes on souljacker and I feel that this has paid of with their latest installment, Shootenanny! The songs on this cd harken back to the days of electro-shock blues, their best cd in my opinion, and tone down the guitar quite a bit from Souljacker.
For those of you out there who are big into the Eels like myself, I suggest going onto the website...and picking up one of their 2 live cd's they have out, if they are still available. Oh What A Beautiful Morning is the better of the two but I believe it is sold out. I would also like to suggest any discs by Fountains of Wayne, the Smiths, the Cure, Depeche Mode, or early Weezer (Blue album or Pinkerton). I have found that fellow Eels fans agree that these groups are liked by them as well.
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on June 26, 2003
With music today taking a nasty turn toward self-pity, an album filled with realization and repelled gloom is a welcome relief. Eels frontman Mark Oliver Everett, also known as E, takes a deep breath on the seventh Eels album, Shootenanny!, and blows some fresh air into the soulful funk-rock that made him famous with 2001's Souljacker. While E may no longer sport the Unabomber look that raised eyebrows two years ago, he still manages to create music for warm, dark nights spent ramming along deserted highways on the hunt for something, anything and everything.
Shootenanny! starts off with "All in a Day's Work," a grating piece lifted straight from the Mississippi Delta. Here E airs out his bum attitude right off the bat, transforming it into an Earl Hooker-type blues piece. "Saturday Morning" is a soulful rock anthem that takes a light trek through childhood, as E hearkens back to those long mornings filled with cartoons leading to even longer days that seemed to never end. "The Good Old Days" slows down the pace with a cheesy remembrance about, well, "the good old days" that most would scoff at, although it's passable here.
On the whole Shootenanny! is an amazing progression from the Souljacker. This is a comfortable album that you can dig your nails into without feeling your heart is getting left behind. Each song welcomes listeners with an old-school blues outline filled in with that rock we all thought was dead. The main funk base of E's sound remains consistent but is augmented with harder rock and blues elements, showing he is able to hold onto his signature sound while simultaneously twisting a piece of rose-colored glass into it.
Emily Isovitsch Review
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on June 19, 2003
It pains me to say it, but I kind of feel like E has finally run out of musical gas. I would agree that much of the Eels work has required multiple listens to fully appreciate. I have every release, and records like Daisies & Electro Shock definitely took some time to fully appreciate in terms of lyrical depth & and musical direction. I consider both modern musical masterpieces. The feel of this release is very different though. It feels immediately acessible with rather simple and catchy melodies. Yet unlike thier other releases which get better with each listen, this seems to be missing that creative edge that keeps bringing you back for additional discovery & appreciation. It clearly has the most commercial sound yet of any Eels release. E seemed to be headed in a slightly more commercial direction with SoulJacker but those songs still had that quirky edge that made them unlike anything else out there. I'm not getting that with this release. In fact it seems quite bland both musically & lyrically.
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on June 17, 2003
I've been an Eels fan ever since "Last Stop: This Town" came out, and have all their cds, excluding "Electro-Shock Blues Show." After their last album, the disappointing "Souljacker," I was curious about how this would sound. Well, I'm happy to say it's probably the best release Eels has ever had. From the harder rock that was heard in Souljacker, and the softer, more acoustic songs that are heard on every Eels album, this is a great balance. Tracks like "Saturday Morning," "Good Old Days," "Rock Hard Times," "Dirty Girl," and "Lone Wolf" were all very catchy and a great listen, and songs like "Fashion Awards," "Love of the Loveless," "Restraining Order Blues," and "Somebody Loves You" add a nice, smooth soft touch. "All In a Day's Work" was a cool harder rock song, and "Wrong About Bobby," was good too, but not great. I was glad that this didn't have the usual awful track that is somehow stuck on an Eels cd in the midst of good songs.... "Beautiful Freak" had "Beautiful Freak" (not the worst, but pretty bad), "Electro-Shock Blues" had "Baby Genius," "Daisies of the Galaxy" had "Tiger in My Tank," "Souljacker" had "Teenage Witch," "Rotten World Blues EP" had "Hidden Track" and "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" had "Abortion in the Sky." There were no awful tracks on this. They were all good listens, most of them very catchy. So, in short, get this album. Right now.
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on June 17, 2003
Briefly it seemed as if the Eels had lost their way. 2001's failed experimentation on Souljacker left a vast chunk of the band's dedicated following slightly disillusioned with their anti-heroes. Whilst that album can in no way be classified as bad, for the most part it lacked the quirky melodies and offbeat arrangements that the band has become synonomous with (Woman Sleeping, Man Driving and Fresh Feeling being notable exceptions). Shootenanny comes off like the record E was previously aiming for. Skipping effortlessly from Beautiful Freak era spikey pop rock to morose Electro Shock Blues style laments via sweet as pie Daisies-esque jaunts, Shootenanny showcases the Eels genre hopping tendencies in all their eclectic glory.
Opening track All In A Days Work sounds like it could have been a stand out track off Souljacker while Love Of The Loveless is pure Daisies genius. Once again collaborating with DJ Killingspree, this time to much greater effect, E's songwriting contains a tone that is more contented than before without ever losing any of his lovable loser persona. Restraining Order Blues, Lone Wolf and Dirty Girl show E stating his alienation more blatantly than before but with a new spin, as if the frontman has now become comfortable in his role and is maybe starting to enjoy it.
There is precious little not to like about Shootenanny. Far more immediate and infectious than it's predecessor, it acts as the meeting point of all the Eels various styles while maintaining a continuity and character all of it's own. Only time will tell if Shootenanny will have the longevity of Daisies Of The Galaxy, Electro Shock Blues or Beautiful Freak but for now take it for what it is; classic Eels.
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on June 8, 2003
I was, of course, extremely excited when "Shootenanny" came out. I have bought every release of the eels' since "Beautiful Freak" and including the Artist Direct-only "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" disc. However, "Shootenanny" is a humongous disppointment. I remember when "Daisies" came out, critics were saying that E's music was better when he was suffering (i.e. "Electro-Shock Blues", probably their best release), and I was angered because they all seemed to want E to kill himself. When your sister commits suicide and both of your parents die in the course of two years, what the hell is your music gonna sound like? "Shootennay" is neither sad nor good. It is merely a conventional rock record from a group who was bringing us quirky brilliance from "Lucky Day in Hell" to "Ant Farm" to "Packing Blankets" to "Bus Stop Boxer". I am not one to make comparisons, but I don't think I would really like it if it was even another artist putting it out. E's awkward feelings have been replaced with obvious titles like "Agony" and "Lone Wolf" and the vibraphones and acoustic guitars have been replaced with pretentious-sounding guitars with a heavy tremolo effect. I'm suprised I'm the only person to give this a negative review. It isn't a completely terrible album. "The Good Old Days" is actually very good, as are parts of "Lone Wolf". But "Restraining Order Blues" is just stupid and "Wrong About Bobby" is boring. Sorry, E, but you too can make happy music good.
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on June 4, 2003
You'll find fewer hard bass/drum effects or noise distortions on the Eel's latest evolution. (Think less "Cancer for the Cure" and more "Friendly Ghost".) In fact, many of the tracks on "Shootenanny" sound as if they would have fit perfectly on Beck's latest album (for example, the bittersweet "Good Old Days"), if you want to get a feel for the vibe. (I intend the comparison in a same-vein sense and am in no way implying a knock-off, as both artists are absolutely incredible in their own right(s).) The sound's kind of bluesy, kind of low-key rock...but always fascinating and completely original. Unlike most bands, the Eels never stumble backwards or produce an album inferior to the one prior; it's always forward-moving and brilliantly reinvented.
Personally, I love this album. Adore it. In my opinion, it ranks up with "ElectroShock Blues" as one of the Eel's greatest accomplishments. Granted, you don't know me personally and the opinion of a complete stranger probably bears no significance in your mind...but I'm still going to name my favorite tracks, in case you're even remotely interested: "Dirty Girls" and "Wrong About Bobby".
In short, it's a great album. If you like the Eels...then you'll like "Shootenanny".
There you have it. My review. *takes a bow*
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on June 3, 2003
I have waited for this release for what seems like forever. It was worth every day!
1) all in a days work: twisted blues in a "the the" kind of vein
2) Saturday morning: upbeat rockin eels, catchy hook. should be a hit
3) The good old days: perfect eels love song full of longing and love.
4) love of the loveless: E pure and simple, just of center. once again loneliness and longing
5) Dirty girl: another hit pure pop fun.
6) Agony: wow a new twist on loneliness and longing, beautiful.
7) Rock hard times: coulda been of daisies, but fits well here too.
8) Restraining order blues: sad sad ballad from the mind of E.
9)lone wolf : perfect;y describes the eels, E, and me :) perfect.
10) Wrong about Bobby: once again pure eels.
11) Numbered days: break up ballad from hell. Wonderful!!!
12) Fashion awards: again 100% pure eels little kids lullaby from the demons loll I love it!!
13) Somebody loves you: your not alone in your longing and loneliness excellent!
another perfect CD by one of my fav bands
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