If there's one thing that's consistent, it's an Eels album.
Shootenanny! is a great collection of songs in the vein of the alternative/blues style that Mr. E likes. And again, the mix of styles and tones on this album is layered with softness, feeling, and wit. The name itself is Mr. E's willingness to create a slang term for the "times we're in now," and make observations about the things around him. It's thirteen songs that range from personal to character sketches in song.
The first song, "All In a Day's Work," is a slow, somewhat heavy blues song; it's got a classic screeching harmonica that plays along nicely with the horns and keyboards in the background. It builds up to a pounding chorus that swirls and rises right before it goes back into the verse. In contrast, the next song, the album's first single "Saturday Morning," is a much faster, lighthearted rock song. A simple structure with lyrics talking about "A big fat world to see/ Nothing's ever gonna happen round here if we don't make it happen," "The Good Old Days" uses an interesting combination of a slow electric guitar and keyboards to create a soft, reminiscent song. "Agony," an even sadder track, also uses keyboards, but with a drum machine initially, to create a flat out blues song: it's a good combination. It displays the Eels' willingness to experiment a bit with a style that is not usually tampered with, as well as the creativity that the band employs in making music.
"Dirty Girl," one of the best tracks on the album, has an almost bluegrass-roll to it, but keeps an edge. The chorus makes it jump out at the listener; harmonies and keyboard notes with lines about what one looks for in a girl ("A girl with a dirty mouth/ Someone I can believe") make it immediately relatable.
One of Mr. E's many talents is taking a sad or serious subject and writing an up-tempo, happy-sounding song around it. "Rock Hard Times" speaks for itself: a lighthearted song about tough times. "Fashion Awards" has falsetto vocals with a lullaby-like melody, and talks about the concept of awards and recognition. With lines like "Nobody said that the world was fair/ And if they did say so/ Well then we'll blow off our heads in despair," one can hear the irony and criticism of "artists." Restraining orders are the subject of "Restraining Order Blues," a sad yet funny song that perfectly displays the talent of Mr. E's songwriting.
Shootenanny! is another great record from the Eels, who never seem to disappoint. Standout tracks are "Dirty Girl," "Saturday Morning," "Numbered Days," and "Somebody Loves You." Rock has never sounded so concise and well tempered: as Mr. E says, "My favorite time is Rock-o'clock."
Tom Fraher is a Contributing Writer. Contact him at email@example.com.