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Album review: Eels' 'Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire'

June 1, 2009 |  6:22 pm

Eels_240_ Over the decade-and-change he's been releasing records as Eels, Los Angeles-based Mark Oliver Everett has worked hard to keep the sound of his one-man band an open-ended quantity. Big-guitar alternative rock, orchestrated old-school balladry, folky acoustic ruminations -- Everett has offered them all (and that's not counting his goofy 2003 hip-hop album under the name MC Honky).

Whatever genre he's working in, though, Everett often returns to one trick he loves more than any other: setting his hoarse grizzly-man croak against delicate china-shop arrangements. On "Hombre Lobo," the first Eels studio album since 2005, Everett works that contrast in about half of the dozen songs, and unfortunately the device is beginning to feel a little tired.

In "All the Beautiful Things," over a tender guitar-and-strings shuffle, he adopts the voice of your creepy neighborhood shut-in, singing, "Every day I wake up and wonder why I'm alone when I know I'm a lovely guy." The joke is well formed, with a pitch-perfect sense of dramatic irony. But its wink-wink humor has dulled through overuse; there's no meaning left in the gesture.

"Hombre Lobo" is much more effective when Everett keeps things one-dimensional, as in "Tremendous Dynamite," a deliciously fuzzy blues-punk rave-up in which he describes being "on the prowl for a restless night," and "Beginner's Luck," a jubilant ode to the boundlessness of new love.

-- Mikael Wood

"Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire"
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