December 12, 2008

Eels - dog'slife - sleE

Eels - Dog's Life

Eels - Efil's God

Eels is the brainchild of American multi-instrumentalist Mark Oliver Everett. In fact, the Virginia-born musician residing in Los Angeles is practically the whole band (being the only consistent member through the years), although it is marketed as a proper band, not a solo effort.

What really makes Eels special are the soothing melodies combined with the bittersweet lyrics, that touch upon the tragic and the sad, but never in a sulky, self-pitying way. It seems that no matter what kind of hardship Everett faces, he will be able to describe it in an ironic and somewhat optimistic way, and he often combines the sad content of his lyrics with happy, upbeat melodies.

Eels' 1996 debut album, Beautiful Freak, gave them attention around the world thanks to the international alternative rock hits Susan's House and Novocaine for the Soul. But after this success, Everett found himself struck by tragedy as the death of his mother caused him to be the last living member of the four-piece family he grew up with in Viriginia. E found his father dead when he was 19, his elder sister committed suicide in 1996, and shortly after his mother was dying of lung cancer. The second album, 1998's Electro-Shock Blues, deals with all these deaths, but in an astoundingly optimistic way.

In 1997, Everett recorded the song Dog's Life: A beautiful, happy little song depicting how difficult it can be being a human, and he comments how nice it must be being a dog. Everett sings he doesn't "care for" his human life, and would prefer the untroubled life of a dog. The song never made it to the following year's album. Being dissatisfied with the song, Everett instead turned the whole song around and made its literal antithesis: The song "Efil's God".

Besides turning the title "Dog's Life" backwards, and taking a sample from the song and loop it backwards (with the consequence of creating a haunting, bizarre melody), it's also lyrically the exact opposite: "Efil's God" is all about accepting the life and fate we've been given. The song takes the viewpoint of his dying mother in her hospital bed, who instead of panicking and fearing death just calmly proclaims: "efil's good and the time is right / I'll bundle up and slip away".

Personally, I love both songs. Songwriting at its finest, from one of America's greatest living musicians.

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