SKG, 2002

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Almost anyone who has ever worked at a college radio station can wax rhapsodic about the excellent songs and unheard bands they uncovered and shared with their friends, stuff nobody else would ever hear on mainstream radio until well after the band had been playing for years, if ever. For me, this time was 2001-05 at my college station in Mt. Pleasant, MI, where I DJed and hosted a couple of shows off and on.

One of the bands I found during this time was Eels; when Souljacker came out, we put the title song into rotation, and it became one of my favorites at the time. All these years later, the album still sounds like college rock personified, the type of quirky album you’d enjoy in your twenties but isn’t all that appealing a decade later when you have a career and children and, perhaps, either a hairline or waistline going in the wrong direction.

Not that this is a bad album or anything. It’s basically Beck for the new century, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Odelay updated by seven years but sporting the same kind of anything-goes approach: spy music, surf music, keyboard squiggles, vocals run through distortion over catchy pop beats and random passages of whatever, songs where hooks are secondary to sound. Not surprisingly, the songs that make some kind of linear sense are the best, including “Woman Driving, Man Sleeping,” “Fresh Feeling,” the trip-hop ambience of “Bus Stop Boxer” and “Friendly Ghost.”

These songs are all back to back toward the front of the album, along with the aforementioned “Souljacker Pt. 1,” which starts with a simple guitar riff before exploding into some crunchy rock, E’s vocals going from a whisper to a roar. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the Pixies and Nirvana did it in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and it’s a staple now. It’s also a unique sound to this band and in 2002 as a whole and remains enduring.

But things go off the rails as the Beck homages pile up to the point of parody. “Jungle Telegraph” starts off so promising but then goes in far too many directions; three minutes later, you’ll have completely forgotten what you just heard. The tuneless “World Of Shit” and the adolescent “Dog Faced Boy” show an immaturity that keeps college rock on campus only (remember the Bloodhound Gang or Afroman? No? That’s why). “Souljacker Pt. 2” is just pointless noodling and “What Is This Noise” is an apt question, delivering rubbery skronk but nothing else.

The extended version of the disc tacks on four songs, including the average but self-aware “I Write The B-Sides,” the low-key noodling of “Hidden Track,” an Iggy Pop/Stooges Raw Power leftover called “Jehovah’s Witness” that will make your ears bleed but is good fun and probably could have enhanced Souljacker, and an instrumental called “Rotten World Blues” that amounts to little more than a rollicking jam.

About half of this record is worth listening to again, but the Eels have far better records out there, albeit few as fun as this one. Consider this a Beck-laden detour from the norm, but be wary when checking it out.

Rating: C

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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