The Eels have enjoyed success both mainstream and underground for well over ten years now and have garnered quite the following behind them. They first gained mainstream success with the 1996 hit, “Novocain For The Soul,” off of the record Beautiful Freak (DreamWorks), and the only song I had heard from them, until now. Lead singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, Mark Oliver Everett, is known for writing dark lyrics and musically colorful soundscapes. Something that is evident in his latest release, Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire (Vagrant).
As the title states, Hombre Lobo is a record of wanting and longing. Over the course of the records twelve tracks Everett sings to an unattainable girl who moves between being unaware of his pining, being caught in another relationship, or requiring more than a simple declaration of love. Yes, this is another record filled with Silly Love Songs but like a much greater lyricist once said “What’s wrong with that?”
There is absolutely nothing wrong with love songs. In fact, most of the greatest tracks in musical history have to do with the search for love or its loss. However, it is the manner in which the poet/lyricist writes these down that make them relevant and interesting. Almost all of the songs here have the singer trying to convince his hopeful love to realize that not only is she the best thing to happen to him, but he could be the best thing to happen to her. All but a few have this feel and frankly it gets more than a little tired after a while.
I know that I have notebooks filled with very much the same words and feelings, and I can relate almost the entire record. The problem is that we look to artists to capture the feelings we have in a beautiful and epic manner that helps us feel our troubles are more than trivial pursuits. Everett accurately portrays emotions and times that I have had in my life, but not in a particularly interesting manner, at least lyrically in most of the tracks. There are a few tracks where he does accomplish to write good love songs. “Tremendous Dynamite” and “Prizefighter” are two of the more blues rock oriented songs and have Everett singing in a more self-assured tone and not simply being lost in his hopeless romantic pose. There is also “All The Beautiful Things” that while it does fall victim to the “why can’t I just get with you” (actual lyric) tone, it does it in a more captivating manner even considering the simple instrumentation that envelops it.
This brings us to the other part of the record that does truly deserve credit and is better done than the words, the actual music. Where lyrically Everett mostly provided lackluster results, musically he provides almost the diametrical opposite. Although there are a few pitfalls such as “The Longing” and “My Timing Is Off” and he does have a fondness for the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-verse-chorus format most of the record does hold up musically. Between his flirtations with blues-rock and garage rock, his darker almost Depeche Mode moments (“Fresh Blood”), and more, the record is actually quite enjoyable to listen too.
In the end, Hombre Lobo is a good record punctuated with enough catchy lyrics, good musicianship, and production value to make it worthy of multiple listens. If it wasn’t for the “oh woe is me” feel of it, it would have been a much more enjoyable record.
7 out of 10