Lust, desire and romance have been the most popular subject matter for songs for millennia now – it’s pretty much what keeps the whole music industry going regardless of genre, fashion or the political background of the era. Some of the greatest wordsmiths throughout history have spent their whole lives trying to write the perfect love song. Some have succeeded, others have failed, while a small minority have consciously avoided writing anything that could have any connection with the weird and wild sensation known as love.
Though I’m not likely to listen to every love song ever recorded, despite the plethora of styles and forms that they can take, love songs in general fall into three broad general categories;
1) The needy ‘if only they’d notice me’ type,
2) The ‘me and you are going to last forever’
3) ‘they broke my heart, but I’ve still sort of got a thing for them’.
While ostensibly written for a teen / young adult market, love songs often have a universal appeal which means that the love songs of our youth can still have a major emotional effect on us for the rest of our lives.
What about the rest of us though? What about those of us that are no longer in the first flush of youth and are now relentlessly marching through middle-age and beyond? There seems to be very few acts capable of writing a song for adult ears that reflects the social needs, sexual desires and emotional longing of someone mature enough to know that their looks are fading, but still pig-headed enough to not stop looking for that elusive ‘someone’ (you know – the single adult). For those of you looking for an album to scratch that specific itch, may I suggest to you Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire by Eels, one of the finest, yet most overlooked albums in recent years.
Much of Hombre Lobo’s appeal to me lies in the fact that it makes a fine job of reflecting the underlining sexual-predatory leanings of the single adult male (not being a female, I really can’t comment on whether it captures the same for you girls). It’s a fine line between oozing swagger and confidence and coming across as arrogant, but there are a number of songs on here that walk that tight-rope with out missing a step. While some may feel that “Prizefighter”, “Tremendous Dynamite”, “Fresh Blood” and “What’s a Fella Gotta Do”, may seem unsophisticated when compared to some of Eels earlier work, those of that opinion are missing the point somewhat – Lust and desire are very basic primal and ferrel emotions, and these songs reflect the nature of that particular beast perfectly.
Just an album with songs based on that simple, yet little observed premise would be enough for most of us, however Hombre Lobo’s true party trick is the fact that it manages to juggle the ferrel swaggering with the crippling self-doubt that those same adult males feel in the small dark hours when they are alone and away from prying eyes. Granted, heart-broken reflection is nothing new for Eels, but when songs like “The Look You Give That Guy”, “All the Beautiful Things” and “Ordinary Man” punctuate the thoughts of a adult man in search of a relationship, they do start to have particular resonance that they may otherwise have lacked – As simple a song as “The Longing” is, it’s certainly among E’s most emotionally devastating songs.
Okay, so you’ve got the sexually charged rockers, the moments of bitter reflection and self-doubt, what more could you possibly want? How about some moments of sheer pop-rock genius to sweeten the deal? “Lilac Breeze”, “My Timing is Off” and “Beginners Luck” all strengthen the theme of the album, and are among the band’s most commercial-sounding moments in recent years. While not one of their most enthusiastically received albums, for me Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire is a work of minor genius. It’s chocked full of confidence, heartbreak, self-analysis and the all out need to be loved as I did at the start of my 30s. Perhaps it’s one of those albums that I only think so highly of because it was exactly the right album at exactly time in my life, but hell, that’s what being a music fan is all about, right?