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Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire Enhanced
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2009 release, the seventh studio album from the ever-changing project led by singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Mark Oliver Everett (aka E). Hombre Lobo was recorded entirely at E's studio in Los Angeles with Koool G Murder (bass, keyboards and guitar) and Knuckles (drums and percussion). Features the first single 'Fresh Blood'.
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Sometimes wearing a mask allows us the freedom to show a side of ourselves that we might otherwise be afraid to reveal. Here, E has assumed a persona of sorts, which differs from anything his audience has seen to date. He's a lusty, swaggering wolfman, carrying a cane and prowling the night. This assumed role seems to allow him to project a confidence unheard in much of his material, displayed most clearly on the opening track "Prizefighter" and the single "Fresh Blood." But what makes this album most compelling is when E drops the guise and reveals his true insecurities, as on "The Look You Give That Guy." That dichotomy makes this wolfman seem all the more human, for beneath the fuzz and fangs still lies a fundamentally reflective and at times insecure person.
The conceptual aspect of this disc is fun and meaningful, but never threatens to overwhelm the content. Song-for-song, this is one of E's best collections. Almost every one of these tracks could stand on its own as a single. The stripped-down sound that E has featured on some of his rawer albums (Souljacker, for example) is in full effect and really works in E's favor. Overall the man sounds energized, mature and confident, always with something interesting and often poignant to say.
E remains the consummate cult artist, and in many ways it's not surprising. His unflinching portraits of insecurity and emotion take some getting used to, especially in the current musical climate. Each project he records is something unique and interesting. This is one of his best to date.
One of the great things about Eels is that even when rocking out with heavily distorted guitars, as in "Lilac Breeze," they never lose their sense of melody. There's a real love of songcraft here, not to mention a mastery of the recording studio. Studio trickery never overwhelms the songs - and the songs are never lacking for the right accompaniment (notice the explosive chorus of "Tremendous Dynamite.")
It's too soon to tell (and doesn't really matter) how this will rank amongst Eels's other cds, but one thing's for sure: this is the perfect Eels album for 2009, and a great addition to an already stunning catalog.
The 12 songs are a mix of upbeat and mellow, more upbeat than previous albums which is where I think things go wrong. E lately hasn't been that great at rocking out (early Eels albums have awesome go-crazy songs but recent attempts IMHO have felt sort of strained and contrived) I dig his voice but the gruff hoarseness just doesn't make for loud singing or screaming. It's much better on the tender, quieter stuff. All the fast songs also sound pretty much identical which is never good. "Lilac Breeze" "Tremendous Dynamite" and "What's A Fella Gotta Do" honestly just made me wince.
"Hombre Lobo" is saved by the slower, what I feel are the more archetype Eels-songs. "That Look You Give That Guy" and "In My Dreams" are nice breezy numbers that are perfect for bummin around on a lazy afternoon. However everything is overshadowed by the tragic "My Timing Is Off" which I think is the best track on here and can be likened to last album's "Railroad Man". (which not surprisingly is my fav song on "Blinking Lights")
Overall it's a good album, it's just more of the same. E is a great lyricist but how many songs can he possibly write about being an outsider looking for love? Musically it's good, but isn't very creative and creativity is what we expect from Eels given how original they've proven themselves to be. I feel like I could've come up with most of these songs myself. It's a cliched thing to say, but this is a perfect example of a CD that's better than most of what's out there but for what the artist is capable of...it's sort of a miss. "Hombre Lobo" will be in my CD player for awhile, but I'm sticking with "Daisies of the Galaxy" when someone asks what album is the best to get into Eels with.
Hombre Lobo is everything you'd want from an EELS album. That Look You Give That Guy, carried by E's impeccable delivery, has instantly become one of E's most memorable tunes (a true feat). Beginner's Luck is a great, catchy rocker. My Timing Is Off is a classic EELS groove, and Fresh Blood, with its menacing groove and lyrics accurately capturing the mood of a despeate man on the prowl, will immediately grab your attention and stay in your head for a long time. You will not be disappointed by Hombre Lobo. Any EELS fan will love it, and it's also a great starting point for beginners.
On first listen I was immediately disappointed...where were the crazy, catchy, awesome songs that accompany every Eels album? Not that the songs were bad, mind you, but I didn't think they were any where near the same level of greatness as his previous material. I put the album away and was in disbelief that E could've made such an ordinary album.
I picked it back up about a week later and couldn't believe how badly I had misjudged this album. This was pretty amazing stuff. It's as different from Blinking Lights as Souljacker is from Shootenanny... and therein lies the rub. I was judging Lobo based on his previous albums and that wasn't fair to the album itself.
Hombre Lobo is full of great tunes. The first half of the album alternates between loud fuzzy rock songs, reminscent of "Dog Faced Boy", and bittersweet, softer songs not unlike a lot of the material from Blinking Lights. These constantly alternating styles takes you in and out of his wolf persona.
My favorite song on this album, easily, is Beginner's Luck. A relatively short song with a killer scream-sing chorus line.
I really love this album and if at first you don't like it, try listening to it without thinking about his other albums.
Key Track: Beginner's Luck