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Eels
Eels, 'Beautiful Freak'

Beautiful Freak  (1996,  43.59)  ***/T

Novocaine For the Soul
Susan's House
Rags to Rags
Beautiful Freak
Not Ready Yet
My Beloved Monster
Flower
Guest List
Mental
Spunky
Your Lucky Day in Hell
Manchild
Eels, 'Rags to Rags' CDS  (1996)  ***/T

Rags to Rags
Spunky
Animal
Eels, 'Last Stop: This Town' 7"/CDS  (1998)  ***/½

Last Stop: This Town
Funeral Parlor
Novocaine for the Soul (Moog Cookbook remix)
Eels, 'Electro-Shock Blues'

Electro-Shock Blues  (1998,  48.18)  ***/T

Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor
Going to Your Funeral Part I
Cancer for the Cure
My Descent Into Madness
3 Speed
Hospital Food
Electro-Shock Blues
Efil's God
Going to Your Funeral Part II
Last Stop: This Town
Baby Genius
Climbing to the Moon
Ant Farm
Dead of Winter
The Medication is Wearing Off
P.S. You Rock My World
Eels, 'Daisies of the Galaxy'

Daisies of the Galaxy  (2000,  44.18)  ***/TTT

Grace Kelly Blues
Packing Blankets
The Sound of Fear
I Like Birds
Daises of the Galaxy
Flyswatter

It's a Motherf#&!@r
Estate Sale
Tiger in My Tank
A Daisy Through Concrete
Jeannie's Diary
Wooden Nickels
Something is Sacred
Selective Memory
Eels, 'Souljacker Part I' CDS  (2001)  ***½/T

Souljacker Part I
Jennifer Eccles
My Beloved Monstrosity
Eels, 'Souljacker'

Souljacker  (2001,  40.34)  ***/TT

Dog Faced Boy
That's Not Really Funny
Fresh Feeling
Woman Driving, Man Sleeping
Souljacker Part I
Friendly Ghost
Teenage Witch

Bus Stop Boxer
Jungle Telegraph
World of Shit
Souljacker Part II
What is This Note?
Eels, 'Blinking Lights and Other Revelations'

Blinking Lights and Other Revelations  (2005,  93.43)  ***½/TT½

Theme From Blinking Lights
From Which I Came/A Magic World

Son of a Bitch
Blinking Lights (for Me)
Trouble With Dreams
Marie Floating Over the Backyard
Suicide Life
In the Yard, Behind the Church
Railroad Man
The Other Shoe
Last Time We Spoke
Mother Mary
Going Fetal
Understanding Salesmen
Theme for a Pretty Girl That
  Makes You Believe God Exists
Checkout Blues
Blinking Lights (for You)
Dust of Ages
Old Shit/New Shit
Bride of Theme From Blinking Lights
Hey Man (Now You're Really Living)
I'm Going to Stop Pretending That
  I Didn't Break Your Heart
To Lick Your Boots
If You See Natalie
Sweet Li'l Thing
Dusk: a Peach in the Orchard
Whatever Happened to Soy Bomb
Ugly Love
God's Silence
Losing Streak
Last Days of My Bitter Heart
The Stars Shine in the Sky Tonight
Things the Grandchildren Should Know
Eels, 'Useless Trinkets'

Useless Trinkets: B-Sides, Soundtracks, Rarities & Unreleased, 1996-2006  (2008,  150.38)  ***½/T

Novocaine for the Soul
  (live from Hell)
F#&!@r
My Beloved Monster (live
  from Tennessee)
Dog's Life
Susan's Apartment
Manchester Girl (BBC)
Flower (BBC)
My Beloved Mad Monster
  Party (BBC)
Animal
Stepmother
Everything's Gonna Be Cool
  This Christmas
Your Lucky Day in Hell
  (Michael Simpson remix)
Altar Boy
Novocaine for the Soul
  (Moog Cookbook remix)
If I Was Your Girlfriend (live)
Bad News
Funeral Parlor
Hospital Food (BBC)
Open the Door (BBC)
Birdgirl on a Cell Phone
Vice President Fruitley
My Beloved Monstrosity
Dark End of the Street (live)

The Cheater's Guide to Your
  Heart (live)
Useless Trinkets
Mr. E's Beautiful Remix
Souljacker Part I (alt.version)
Dog Faced Boy (alt.version)
Jennifer Eccles
Rotten World Blues
Can't Help Falling in Love
Christmas is Going to the Dogs
Mighty Fine Blues
Eyes Down
Skywriting
Taking a Bath in Rust
Estranged Friends
Her
Waltz of the Naked Clowns
I Like Birds (live)
Sad Foot Sign
Living Life
The Bright Side
After the Operation
Jelly Dancers
I Could Never Take the Place of
  Your Man (live at Town Hall)
Mr. E's Beautiful Blues (live at
  Town Hall)
I Want to Protect You
I Put a Spell on You (live)
Saw a UFO

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

I've got several friends who love The Eels to bits, and while their appeal has largely passed me by so far, I'm beginning to understand why their following is so fanatical. For those not in the know, the Eels, led by 'E', a.k.a. Mark Oliver Everett, specialise in short, bittersweet, Americana-tinged quirky pop, with a fine line in terribly depressing lyrics.

Their debut, 1996's Beautiful Freak, sets out their stall with aplomb, laying down the template for most of their future releases, particularly on the lyrical front. Its sole Chamberlin track, My Beloved Monster, is very typical, with a flute line played by the ubiquitous Jon Brion and what sounds like 'Chamberlin noise', quite possibly produced by leaning on the keyboard on the strings patch, which is no bad thing. The track was used in the first Shrek film, in case you think the title sounds familiar, but aren't sure why. A contemporaneous b-side, Animal, adds a helping of Chamby cellos to the mix for good measure. Two years on, Electro-Shock Blues is more of the same, essentially, although there's a little more experimentation musically, with the odd sampled rhythm (note: not 'beat') finding its way in here and there. Climbing To The Moon has an excellent little Chamby flute part from Brion again, with Mellotron oboe (?) on b-side Funeral Parlor, but neither of these albums is actually worth it on the tape-replay front.

Third album in, Daisies of the Galaxy, is more of the same musically, but loads more Mellotron. They apparently used Chamberlin sounds on Mellotron tapes, so given that it certainly sounds quite odd, that would make sense. For example, the choirs on I Like Birds and the actually quite good Flyswatter definitely aren't standard Mellotron, but have 'that sound' about them, ditto the strings on the title track. The heavy flute use on Tiger In My Tank works really well, actually, key click to the fore, though I'm afraid I find the song a tad irritating. Jeannie's Diary mixes Mellotron flutes with real strings, while Something Is Sacred has more flutes. It's distinctly possible that some of the other tracks feature the alleged Chamby/Mellotron hybrid, but without a better knowledge of the Chamberlin sound library, it's hard for me to say for certain. By the way, there's an uncredited fifteenth track on the CD, which may also possibly contain Mellotron, but it's hard to say for certain.

No.4, 2001's Souljacker, is a rather heavier proposition, while still retaining much of that Eels sound they've spent three albums refining. The only obvious Mellotron (this time clearly credited) is flute parts on Friendly Ghost, Teenage Witch and Souljacker Part II the last-named being almost entirely Mellotron and vocal, making it one of the band's best uses of the instrument yet. Once again, not really a Mellotron album and less accessible than its predecessor. We also get Mellotron cello on the outrageously funereal version of The Hollies' Jennifer Eccles, found on the flip of Souljacker Part I and, credited merely to E, on 1995's Sing Hollies in Reverse tribute disc.

After 2003's 'Tronless Shootenanny! (***), Blinking Lights and Other Revelations is indeed a revelation, as E's songs finally match his reputation (personal opinion, of course...). OK, it's a little overlong, but Everett practically redefines the word 'melancholy' on several tracks, most of which sound pretty much autobiographical. Mellotronically, opener Theme From Blinking Lights is the album's first Mellotron overload, being simply vocals and (real) strings over a lovely Mellotron flute part. More flutes on several other tracks on disc one, but nothing that matches up to the short instrumental Understanding Salesmen, effectively a Mellotron flute solo piece. No strings until disc two, on Dust Of Ages, with the rest of the album's strings being real, but I'm not sure what's generating the female solo voices; a Chamberlin sound on Mellotron tapes? An Orchestron/Optigan? Something else entirely? Doesn't sound like a Mellotron, but you know how it is...

2008's Useless Trinkets: B-Sides, Soundtracks, Rarities & Unreleased, 1996-2006 is exactly the kind of archive set all bands should release: as far as I can work out, every previously-released non-album b-side and compilation appearance plus outtakes, in one easily-available package. Exclusivity? You can stick it, frankly. Of course, such a diverse collection lacks any kind of cohesiveness, but I'd say it's a small price to pay for the privilege of being able to hear two-and-a-half hours' worth of hard-to-find material. Highlights? Several of the live tracks and a handful of b-sides, not least Altar Boy, Birdgirl On A Cell Phone and Mr. E's Beautiful Remix. Tape-replay on four tracks (two of them referenced in the extensive booklet), with Chamberlin cellos on Animal, Mellotron oboe (?) on Funeral Parlor, Mellotron cello on Jennifer Eccles and flutes and flute fills all over Mighty Fine Blues (from the Holes soundtrack), although the flutey sound on Michael Simpson's remix of Your Lucky Day In Hell is probably something else.

So; if you like the sound they make, I expect you've already got the Eels' back catalogue. As far as the Mellotron/Chamberlin/whatever's concerned, forget the first two, be wary of their fourth, but Daisies of the Galaxy and Blinking Lights are worth the effort.

E
E, 'Broken Toy Shop'

Broken Toy Shop  (1993,  46.30)  ***½/T½

Shine it All on
Standing at the Gate
The Only Thing I Care About
Manchester Girl
L.A. River
A Most Unpleasant Man
Mass
Tomorrow I'll Be Nine
The Day I Wrote You Off
Someone to Break the Spell
She Loves a Puppet
My Old Raincoat
Permanent Broken Heart
Eight Lives Left

Current availability:

Chamberlin used:

Mark Oliver "E" Everett is best-known as head honcho of Eels, although he released a couple of solo albums before their formation, 1992's A Man Called E and the one that concerns us here, the following year's Broken Toy Shop. On a first listen, the most surprising thing about it is its relative 'commerciality' (I speak relatively, of course), with a distinctly early '90s glossy major-label sound to many tracks, although how you manage this trick with E's desolate lyrical imagery is beyond me. As a result, the album's possibly better lyrically than musically, with vicious little digs such as A Most Unpleasant Man or Tomorrow I'll Be Nine standing up well against his later material.

Broken Toy Shop is one of Patrick Warren's early Chamberlin session jobs. As so often with that blasted instrument, it's often difficult to tell what's Chamberlin and what's generic sampled strings or even real ones, but opener Shine It All On features brass, separate female and male voices and strings, with flutes on Mass and strings on Someone To Break The Spell, including a pitchbent part. There may well be more parts but etc. etc. So; one for Eels fans, without a doubt, although the rest of you should probably exercise caution. Three obvious Chamby tracks, but not enough to make it worth hearing for those alone, on the offchance that you were considering it.

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