Artist – Album: Eels – Beautiful Freak
Released: 13th August 1996
Sounds Like: Witty and charming oddballs
Reknowned music critic Robert Christgau hasn’t half dropped some clangers during his lengthy career. He infamously pissed off both Lou Reed and Sonic Youth enough for them to blast him in song (the latter with a tune known as ‘I Killed Christgau with My Big Fucking Dick’), whilst his dislike of heavy metal is legend. A selection of his most questionable reviews include the unhappy face granted to Weezer’s brilliant self titled debut, a patently ridiculous “A” for the Black Eyed Peas album The E.N.D and a “B-“ for Radiohead’s OK Computer, widely held to be one of the greatest albums of all time (from his review: “Radiohead wouldn't know a tragic hero if they were cramming for their A levels, and their idea of soul is Bono, who they imitate further at the risk of looking even more ridiculous than they already do.”) Universally adored albums such as Guided by Voices’ Alien Lanes, U2’s Achtung Baby and Metallica’s Metallica (the Black album) have all received the lowest “bomb” rating. Such mistakes are understandable; after all, Christgau’s been doing this for years, and nobody’s perfect. But his routine dismissal of the Eels is borderline a vendetta. Four albums reviewed, three bombed, including this glorious debut.
The brainchild of one Mark E Everett, the Eels specialise in creating bleakly comical indie rock tunes, and the best known tracks here – ‘Novocaine for the Soul’, ‘Susan’s House’, ‘My Beloved Monster’ and ‘Your Lucky Day in Hell’ (which features the splendid lyrics “waking up with an ugly face: Winston Churchill in drag) – are brilliant. The rest of the album consists mostly of stately, beautiful piano led ballads such as the title track ‘Beautiful Freak’ and ‘Spunky’, although the tempo picks up on the likes of ‘Rags to Rags’.
Quite what Robert Christgau didn’t like about this album, I couldn’t say – “bomb” rated albums apparently aren’t worthy of further comment – but, I’m telling you, he had a shocker.
Albumaday... rating: 8/10
1. Novocaine for the Soul – 3:08
2. Susan’s House – 3:43
3. Rags to Rags – 3:53
4. Beautiful Freak – 3:34
5. Not Ready Yet – 4:46
6. My Beloved Monster – 2:13
7. Flower – 3:38
8. Guest List – 3:13
9. Mental – 4:01
10. Spunky – 3:11
11. Your Lucky Day in Hell – 4:28
12. Manchild – 4:05
Listen to ‘Spunky’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHVvBx-SQAY
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