Off-Key with Eric D.

Eric D'Orazio

Not many people really understand the healing power of music. Putting their focus on things like a song’s flashy video or its popularity through radio overplay, they don’t see into the fact that some music can, in some way or another, have a deep effect on their lives. It may merely reflect some aspect of life, or go so far as change one’s life, but all things considered, it leaves its mark.

No one understands this concept better than Mark Oliver Everett, or as most know him, E, lead singer and songwriter of Eels. Over the years, E’s sonic healing has been heard by means of pieces such as his “Novocaine For The Soul” and “Selective Memory,” which in turn have given the world nothing less than a “Fresh Feeling.” However, this time around, E goes for a fuller effect with the 13 delightful songs that compose his newest masterpiece, “Shootenanny!”

Aside from being the title of the new Eels album, “Shootenanny!” in itself is a description of the album’s overall vibe. Coined by E, the title represents “a social gathering at which participants engage in folk singing and sometimes dancing, but mainly the shooting of guns.” And with this, the explosive songs that make up the new record are founded. Dealing with E’s ongoing infatuation with lost love, childhood longing and distant hope, it goes a step further by looking into subjects such as putting people in their place and realizing they’re not good enough for others’ standards.

One topic on “Shootenanny!” that greatly stands out can be found in the song “Dirty Girl.” Almost halfway into the album, the track focuses on the importance of profanity in communication. As E once said in an interview for the album, “I don’t trust people who don’t use profanity … I feel like they’re not being real.” The song itself takes this to heart, dealing with the idea that even when a relationship falls apart, all that’s left to hold on to is the truthful, and sometimes profane, honesty that once was. To top it all off, he explains such in a very jubilant manner, thereby making “Dirty Girl” lighthearted but poignant.

As many Eels fans have come to realize, E is well in touch with the blues. Whether it be sad and draining as in “Electro-Shock Blues,” or beautifully optimistic as in “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues,” the man knows his way around depression. And the same thing holds true with the new album’s “Restraining Order Blues.” Looking into the sad world of a man who knows he is in love, but whose pursuit has landed him a court order, the song is nothing but extremely heartbreaking. With the lyrics, “Life goes on / Nothing is new / Judge made it clear / I can’t be near you,” it becomes very obvious that the man at hand remains romantically unresolved and in turn cannot seem to live with himself. All he can do is stay away, sadly wallowing in the thought, “I know I’ll never find another love like this.”

In true form to the Eels’ past releases, “Shootenanny!” ends with a sweet, life-affirming song. This time around, it arrives in the form of the aptly titled “Somebody Loves You.” Basing itself on the fact that sometimes all things seem hopeless and empty, the song sends support by means of assuring that “you’re gonna make it through,” mainly by means of believing that “somebody loves you.” In truth, that “somebody” could even be you, for the song alludes to the idea that “you got to be your good friend.” Whatever the meaning, the point remains that the song is all but a piece of classic Eels. Listen with love.

Taking into account the healing powers that music holds, it should be quite clear that Eels’ “Shootenanny!” is the perfect remedy for the saddened soul. Like its predecessors, it remains quite entertaining, and while depressing still has its inspirational moments. It’s the kind of album that lifts you out of whatever emotionally perplexing situation you find yourself in and lets you let go for the good part of an hour. It’s optimistic focus, combined with the fact that it was recorded in about a week, makes it Eels’ most straightforward album. The truth is that in respect to the problems that people face today, “Shootenanny!” is right on target.