Great music doesn’t always come from Casey Kasem’s Top 40 Countdown. Over the years of being a music nut, I’ve stumbled upon bands that have a totally unique sound that sort of sucks you in. In today’s case, this is a band I fell in love with when I was 12 years old. Here we are nearly two decades later, and they’re still one of, if not my favorite band of all time.
The Eels were formed in California in the mid-90s. A fella by the name of Mark Oliver Everett (better known simply as “E”) was looking to find bandmates that fit his eclectic music style and songwriting. E had put out a couple solo albums in the early 90s, so when the band was forming, they selected the name Eels solely to be close in stores to the solo works. By the time they realized anything that began with an “Ea” would be between them, it was too late and the Eels were born.
Beautiful Freak was their first release, and it came out in August of 1996. A couple guys named David Geffen and Steven Spielberg decided to form a DreamWorks music label to compliment the movie studios. It just so happens, this album was the first ever release on that label. By no means was this a landmark pickup for the label, as E only had a minor following from his solo work, and the rest of the guys were relatively unknown in the music scene. The deal worked out well enough though, as the Eels would end up dropping 5 studio albums through the DreamWorks label.
The success of the record initially was quite slow. ‘Novocaine for the Soul’ was leaked as a single months prior to the album release, and by that time, many people had already forgotten about it. It’s fairly easy to understand why, as this album ranges from alt rock to indie folk rock and then almost a gospel feel in a couple places. It’s not an album where you can hear one track, and get a dozen others that sound just like it. This album is all over the place, and that’s what I love about it, and the Eels. You know they’re never going to mail it in – so to speak.
Some may have discussed this album as a modest success, but it would reemerge through a surprising outlet—movies. Fitting for a DreamWorks record, I guess. The 2001 box office smash ‘Shrek’ would feature the track, ‘My Beloved Monster,’ and folks would start to hear about the Eels again. ‘Not Ready Yet’ and ‘Guest List’ were featured in the television show ‘Homicide: Life on the Street,’ ‘Your Lucky Day In Hell’ was used in the film Scream 2 and finally ‘Beautiful Freak’ was featured in ‘Hellboy 2’.
In total, the Eels have released 11 studio albums, each one bringing their own identity to the table. Many people identify the Beautiful Freak album as the Eels sound just because it was their first album. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as this album is a classic. It’s generally very laid back, but has a couple tracks that will get your toe tapping. E is a man who has been through a lot in life, and he writes like a 50-year-old man that’s lived a thousand years. For that reason alone, it’s worth $5.99—and a little play time on your headphones.