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Music / Eels

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Life is hard,
And so am I,
You'd better give me something,
So I don't die.
—"Novocaine for the Soul"

Eels is an alternative rock group formed in California in 1995. Contains only one constant member, the founder Mark Oliver Everett.note  Other musicians have come and gone over the years, but Everett (affectionately referred to as E) writes nearly all the material. Eels have contributed to many movie soundtracks, including Yes-Man and the first three Shrek films.

Eels was just chosen as a name because E figured that if you went to a record store, you'd see their albums filed pretty close to the albums he'd put out as a solo artist. Once the first Eels album actually came out, he found out that the "E" and "Eels" sections were usually separated by a lot of albums by The Eagles and Earth, Wind & Fire.

The band has been described as a vehicle through which E expresses his innermost thoughts, fears, and desires. This seems accurate, as the melodies and lyrics are generally very personal and introspective (especially on the most recent releases). As E wrote in his memoir Things The Grandchildren Should Know, each album reflects E's emotional state at the time he wrote the songs. Since E has led a pretty tumultuous life, the albums range from bright and optimistic to bitter and resentful.

Although Eels never really broke out into the mainstream ("Novocaine for the Soul" from Beautiful Freak was a minor hit, but that's about it for them chartwise in the United States), they do have a large and dedicated cult following. The 1998 album Electro-Shock Blues, E's effort to come to terms with the deaths of his mother and sister, is usually considered his best.

Not to be confused with the ones hiding in your hovercraft.


  • Beautiful Freak (1996)
  • Electro-Shock Blues (1998)
  • Daisies of the Galaxy (2000)
  • Souljacker (2001)
  • Shootenanny! (2003)
  • Blinking Lights...and Other Revelations (2005)
  • Hombre Lobo (2009)
  • End Times (2010)
  • Tomorrow Morning (2010)
  • Wonderful, Glorious (2013)
  • The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett (2014)
  • The Deconstruction (2018)
  • Earth To Dora (2020)
  • Extreme Witchcraft (2022)

Eels provide examples of:

  • alllowercaseletters: The artwork to Beautiful Freak and Electo-shock Blues stylized the band name this way. Every album after that (barring some prints of Blinking Lights and Other Revelations) had an all capital logo instead.
  • Audience Participation: "I Like Birds".
  • Black Comedy: Particularly the America's Funniest Home Videos parody video for "Rags to Rags".
  • Bowdlerise: The label requested a re-dubbed "clean" version of "It's A Motherfucker", so that Daisies of the Galaxy could be sold at stores that don't carry albums with explicit lyrics. E's Writer Revolt was to change the title drop to "it's a monster trucker" and add unintelligible mock-CB radio chatter to instrumental sections.
  • Concept Album:
    • Electro-Shock Blues and the Hombre Lobo/End Times/Tomorrow Morning trilogy.
    • Blinking Lights and Other Revelations probably counts too with a running theme of E coming to terms with all the things he's experienced.
  • Cover Version: The Hollies' "Jenifer Eccles", among others.
  • Darker and Edgier: Souljacker.
  • Deadpan Snarker: E himself.
  • Go Among Mad People: Possible interpretation for some songs on Electro Shock Blues.
  • Howl of Sorrow: In "The Last Time We Spoke", provided by E's dog Bobby.
  • I Am the Band: E is the only constant member, writing all the songs himself. His bandmates pretty much just follow along.
  • The Invisible Band: "Today Is The Day" has actor/comedian Mike Mitchell lip-syncing the song while dancing down the street. E gets a brief cameo, possibly as himself - he plays a passenger in a limo which almost runs Mike over, and he rolls down the window to shout "Get the fuck out of the road!" (Consequently, Mike spends the rest of the video dancing down the sidewalk instead.)
    • "Are We Alright Again" is both this and a variation on the Inaction Video - as a fan portrayed by Jon Hamm intently listens to the newest Eels record on headphones, some masked robbers break in behind him and start stealing everything that isn't nailed down.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: "Suicide Life" is an effective one.
  • Love Triangle: "The Look You Give That Guy"
  • Lyrical Dissonance: A lot of Eels songs are about death, rejection, or insanity- but listening to some of the melodies, you'd never know it.
    • "What Is This Note?" reverses the usual trend for Eels songs: It's a fast-paced song with noisy, distorted guitars and aggressively shouted vocals... But the lyrics are about being happily in love ("The day is new and a good one too / How can I prove my love to you? / I wanna give you everything / Me and the birds, now we're gonna sing").
  • Lyrical Shoehorn: Subverted; sometimes E ignores rhythm altogether, in order to sing the lyrics he wants; especially attention-drawing in "Things the Grandchildren should Know".
  • Moral Guardians: In one of the fundraisers for the Democratic campaign for the 2000 presidential elections copies of Daisies of the Galaxy were handed out for free. The Republican campaign jumped on the opportunity and accused the Democrats of marketing inappropriate material for children, since the album had both cartoony cover art and obscene lyrics.
  • New Sound Album: Daisies From The Galaxy was a more joyful album than his previous two. Souljacker was loud and rocking compared to his earlier output.
  • Non-Indicative Name: "Hidden Track" isn't a Hidden Track - it's clearly listed as track 2 on Rotten World Blues, a bonus EP included with some editions of Souljacker.
  • Obsession Song: "My Timing is Off" and several other songs on Hombre Lobo.
  • Perishing Alt-Rock Voice
  • Rearrange the Song: They like to do this in their live performances. For instance, the studio version of "I Like Birds" is laid back and based around acoustic guitar and drum machine, but at concerts they tend to increase the tempo and turn it into a noisy pop punk number. There was also a spell where E would speak the lyrics of "Novocaine For The Soul" instead of singing them, although otherwise the arrangement stayed the same.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: The title of "Efil's God" is "Dog's Life" backwards (with a slight change in punctuation of course): "Dog's Life" was actually an earlier non-album track, and "Efil's God" is based around a backwards sample of it.
  • Self-Deprecation: E's lyrics feature this a lot.
  • "Sesame Street" Cred: They've contributed songs to the Shrek movies ("My Beloved Monster", "I Need Some Sleep", "Royal Pain", "Losing Streak") and the live-action version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! ("Christmas Is Going To The Dogs"). In Things The Grandchildren Should Know, E makes a self-effacing crack about giving his music to any film with a main character who is ornery and green, but also notes that he likes having his songs in films aimed at children because "kids know where it's at". There was also "Mighty Fine Blues" and "Eyes Down" for the tween-geared Holes.
  • Shout-Out: In "Your Lucky Day In Hell", the narrator self-deprecatingly compares himself to "Winston Churchill in drag" - the same image was previously used in "Supper's Ready" by Genesis.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Listen to Daisies of the Galaxy and then put in End Times.
  • Something Blues: Used a lot, in addition to "Mr E's Beautiful Blues" and song/album Electro-shock Blues, there's "Mighty Fine Blues", "Rotten World Blues", "Checkout Blues", "Grace Kelly Blues", "Restraining Order Blues" and "Paradise Blues".
  • Song of Song Titles: The lyrics of "Hidden Track" are composed entirely of song titles suggested to E by fans.
  • Title Drop: Averted with 'Electro-Shock Blues'', although the album features a title track, it doesn't feature the title.
  • Troubled Fetal Position: Averted for laughs in "Going Fetal", where it's depicted as the newest dance craze.