Friday 30 September 2011

On eels

This is likely to be the vaguest blog post I've written in a while. But it deals with a number of family things that I don't particularly want to write about yet. And besides, as I have already found out, I couldn't do it nearly as well as Mark Oliver Everett.

This week I've been reading his autobiographical book, Things The Grandchildren Should Know. I first encountered Eels in January 1997 and the reason was simply because I thought that Novocaine for the Soul was a great song. I was right. It was and it still is. It was my brother who really got into Eels, though. When their second album came out Electro-Shock Blues came out in autumn 1998 he was right on top of it.

"The songs are all about how everyone in his family died", he explained with a customary bluntness. 'What a pisser', thought I, with likewise. 'No wonder all the songs are so MISERABLE'. I was 18 years old.

After reading E's book, though, and finding out about these things in rather more context and depth, I felt a strong need to revisit a record I'd probably not listened to in 12 years. If you've not done it in a similar amount of time, or never have, I recommend that you do. Over the last 24 hours I've barely listened to anything else. It's a quite extraordinarily beautiful and powerful piece of work.

A lot has happened since 1999. 31 year old me has difficulty getting through the whole thing without crying or feeling like they've just swallowed a whole Cornetto, wide end first. This is partially due to the subject matter: death, illness, depression, suicide and lung cancer (which is as far as I'll be going this time) but no doubt also due to the quality of the songs themselves and the enormous human character they convey.

Its most extraordinary characteristic is how it remains an uplifting experience whilst never denying the darkness. The final line of the final song, P.S. You Rock My World is "and maybe it's time to live". Art, music, literature. Its greatness for me is its shapeshifting ability, its scope for changing in meaning depending on the observer, the time or the situation. It's what makes it so endlessly fascinating and exciting. And maybe it IS time to live.

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