Today’s offering is Dreamworks Records 450 893-7, the September 2001 (picture disc) release that featured a bearded E cuddling a pooch.

For me, a title like ‘Souljacker Part 1’ should at least herald a disturbing sci-fi tale, if not go the whole hog and plunge the listener into a nightmarish vision of the future. As it is, neither music, nor lyrics, nor Mark “E” Everett’s voice gave me even the slightest scare. Even a Wim Wenders-directed video shot in an East Berlin prison can’t raise the stakes.

It begins with a small amount of promise, repetitious bass emerging from out of earshot, but it never gets any darker. The lyrics are a boring list of nothing characters with clichéd gripes against easy targets: how am I supposed to get interested in these paper-thin characters, as unreal and as shallow as Western movie set storefronts ? The chorus, such as it is, reels off family relations (and relationships; chucking incest into the fray seems like an afterthought) over a playful climb-and-descent melody. And then there’s the moment when E should be delivering a killer intro to some violence-exuding thrash and instead his hollered “oh yeah” sounds like he’s just inhaled a helium balloon.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know Eels well. I’m familiar with a handful of songs – ‘Novocaine For The Soul’, ‘Mr E’s Beautiful Blues’ and ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas’ – all of which are ok. I’m sure there are plenty of fans out there who would put me right with their more in-depth knowledge… But I’m inclined to believe that Eels’ moments in the sun, few as they are, have come from recording similar stuff: sunny, slightly off-kilter music and lyrics sung by a voice that best does wistful or sad. They should stick to what they can do; and digging in the dirt doesn’t seem like their area. For me, a title like ‘Souljacker Part 1’ should at least herald a disturbing sci-fi tale, if not go the whole hog and plunge the listener into a nightmarish vision of the future. As it is, neither music, nor lyrics, nor Mark “E” Everett’s voice gave me even the slightest scare. Even a Wim Wenders-directed video shot in an East Berlin prison can’t raise the stakes.

It begins with a small amount of promise, repetitious bass emerging from out of earshot, but it never gets any darker. The lyrics are a boring list of nothing characters with clichéd gripes against easy targets: how am I supposed to get interested in these paper-thin characters, as unreal and as shallow as Western movie set storefronts ? The chorus, such as it is, reels off family relations (and relationships; chucking incest into the fray seems like an afterthought) over a playful climb-and-descent melody. And then there’s the moment when E should be delivering a killer intro to some violence-exuding thrash and instead his hollered “oh yeah” sounds like he’s just inhaled a helium balloon.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know Eels well. I’m familiar with a handful of songs – ‘Novocaine For The Soul’, ‘Mr E’s Beautiful Blues’ and ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas’ – all of which are ok. I’m sure there are plenty of fans out there who would put me right with their more in-depth knowledge… But I’m inclined to believe that Eels’ moments in the sun, few as they are, have come from recording similar stuff: sunny, slightly off-kilter music and lyrics sung by a voice that best does wistful or sad. They should stick to what they can do; and digging in the dirt doesn’t seem like their area.

As is becoming the case, a b-side that’s not really worth the column inches. I am sure that I have fond memories of the high quality of b-sides ‘back in the day’, that they were an opportunity for experimentation and abandon, rather than space into which to chuck alternative mixes, live versions, other album tracks or, still worse, cast-offs. I’m sad about the killing off of b-sides by the download era; but the evidence is beginning to stack up that in reality rather fewer people fought to maintain their currency. Perhaps ‘I write the b-sides’ shows that Eels didn’t care that much.