Posted by: Natalie | August 27, 2010

A Musical Education

I don’t think Eels are a band you can just fall into, it takes an education. Throughout my teenage years I was always steered towards music trends favoured by those boys I adored at the time (yes, I was that easily swayed and unsure of myself) but it was these teenage crushes that prepared me for my adult taste in music. Ok, so I dallied with dance tracks a while for one beautiful boy in particular (to little effect) and at the time quite genuinely enjoyed strutting my stuff to synthesised nonsense. But, over the last ten years I have grown into my true tastes and accepted that my teenage dedication to bands such as Radiohead and The Foo Fighters, has caused some lasting damage.

My education with regards to Eels began several years before Steve and I actually became a couple. I would spend hours sat in his University room, listening to his favourite band and being taught of all the emotion ploughed into the lyrics; all the sadness and melancholy and heart wrenching pain that their lead singer E had been through (Things the Grandchildren Should Know is a remarkable autobiography that everyone should read – even just to see the honesty of it all). There is nothing like an unhealthy string of mental instability, horrific relationships and tragic family deaths to put you in the mood for writing some killer music.

Last night we went to watch Eels at Birmingham’s O2 Academy. I had seen them perform a few years ago in Liverpool, but then I still felt a little like a ‘copy-cat’. Last night though, I felt like one of the final pieces of my education had slotted into place – I was a true fan. But I only realised this as I started grinning like an idiot as E walked out onto stage and begun gushing as the band played through tracks that I love, along with new ones to learn.

They were brilliant! Not only did they put a lot of heavy guitar behind their vocals, put twists and turns on well loved tracks (a Jazz-funk styled Beloved Monster – yes, from Shrek), perform covers of Gershwin’s Summertime and Lovin’ Spoonful’s Summer in the City, they completely blew me away with a particular version of Mr E’s Beautiful Blues.You may best know the track from the film, Road Trip or have it logged as ‘God Damn Right (It’s a Beautiful Day)‘, a line from the song. It is a version that I have demanded Steve track down, because if we were ever to get married, I HAVE to dance to it at our wedding. They put the lyrics to the music of Twist and Shout by the Beatles. Awesome. Everyone went mad! It was perfectly done with all the little ooos and ahhhs from the backing singers thrown in to boot. I have since tried to replicate this myself – don’t think I will be entering any singing competitions any time soon!

I came away glowing and so very happy (despite the tragedy in many of their lyrics). They did not simply dwell on the pretty melancholic songs but played some of the heavy duty guitar led tracks that get you a little bit bouncy! It was a great balanced mix which I enjoyed so much it caused two major decisions in my mind.

  1. I WILL finally sort out the ipod I was ‘donated’ and put all their albums (including the new) on to it so I can listen again and again and again – I am actually useless at listening to music these days and this should rectify the problem.
  2. Once the tracks are loaded, I will read Things The Grandchildren Should Know again but this time play the corresponding albums along with the chapters. As much as you can appreciate Mark Oliver Everett’s lyrical genius and his sorrowful tale, it would be brilliant to put the two jigsaw pieces firmly together to appreciate the whole.

See, I have become slightly obsessive. I have become a fan. Education complete!

The below track, Flyswatter is one of the very first that I heard. Sadly, not played last night. Dark whimsy is the best way to describe it!

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