On Second Thought: Eels – Shootenanny (2003)

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Damn, how disappointing this album was the first few times through. I even applied my “five times” rule (listen at least 5 times before you pass judgment, especially negative, upon something) and it still failed to ignite anything in me other than contempt.

Eels frontman E is known for his tendency to go for the chuckle at odd times, which has given some of his more somber songs a bit more human feel — even the worst of things aren’t so remorse that the world is entirely devoid of humor — but it felt like Shootenanny was created specifically to showcase this kind of humor.

Problem was, it was entirely lacking in substantial material on which to hang this humor, and in the end it just felt kind of like a joke being played on the long-time fans. E, more than ever before, felt simply like a character Mark Oliver Everett was playing.

Where Daisies of the Galaxy and Electro-Shock Blues were depressingly beautiful, with moments of wise-ass whimsy, Shootenanny was simply all whimsy and all wise-ass, all the time. It didn’t feel genuine.

However, given some time away from it, my hesitant decision to listen to it again was rewarded with a pleasant, fun album to listen to. Sure, some of the lyrics sound like E slaved over them to make them funny, but it’s strangely strong.

It’s not one of their all-time best, but it’s certainly nothing to overlook if you enjoy some cranky, but intelligent music.

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Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson has contributed to Blogcritics, and maintained a series of stand-alone sites including Known Johnson, Everything is a Mess and others. He studied both creative writing and then studio art at Arizona State. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Tom Johnson
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