Eels – Beautiful Freak (1996)
Novocaine for the Soul is the quintessential mid-90s single.
Along the quirky lines of Your Woman, Pepper, and other familiar songs that inevitably appeared on Big Shiny Tunes-esque compilations.
The kind of tunes that many will instantly recognize but fewer will remember the group name. Current readership excluded of course: you folks have impressively encyclopaedic recollection abilities. Bonus marks if you can identify who performed the aforementioned singles!
Fortunately, there is much more than just a catchy single on Beautiful Freak.
Critics may say its decade of origin isn’t hard to spot; I’ll concede that, but also argue that they were both behind & ahead of the times in 1996.
My Beloved Monster provides a case in point: in the very brief intro, it sounds like Eels found themselves ahead of the early 21st Century banjo revival. By the end of the song, listeners have been taken down Dear Prudence lane. All while retaining a fresh sound, deserving of the ‘alternative’ label.
My one caution: these guys are masters of what I’ll call the ‘lullaby hook.’ When used sparingly, it can be devastatingly effective, such as with the Everly Brothers‘s Always It’s You or Radiohead’s No Surprises.
When used frequently, the potential consequence is that the lullaby hooks might inadvertently end up doing exactly what lullabies are designed to do: soothe listeners to sleep. Or be calming to the point of numbing, like the effect of Novocaine for the
soul teeth at the Dentist’s office.
That being said, I’ll gladly take Beautiful Freak over a dental procedure any day!