Monday, June 19th, 2006
Blinking Lights And Other Revelations
Eels and Smoosh. The enigmatic depressive pop orchestra conductor and the sunshiney, barely-tween sister keyboard/drums duo. Whoever put this bill together was either brilliant or insane – time would tell.
I’ve never been big on E/Eels/Mark Everett. I recall him getting some songs as A Man Called E on a CFNY/HMV sampler thing way back in the early 90s that, while surely gave evidence of Everett’s pop saavy, also came off to me as horribly cliche and melodramatic in its angstiness. Keep in mind that I was what, 17 at the time? I had plenty of angst of my own, thank you very much. When he reconstituted himself as Eels and had his “Novocaine For The Soul” mini-hit, it just reinforced my preconceptions of the guy and I carried on ignoring him for the past decade, even though his albums would often get glowing reviews from the press. But that said, I think I came into the show with an open mind even if I probably wouldn’t have gone had Smoosh not been on the bill.
Though the show was sold out, there was hardly anyone in the audience when Smoosh took the stage. Maybe it was the early 7PM start time or the street festival outside but it took a little while before the crowd began to fill out. Either way, the Smoosh set was short and compact and intense. Not intense like Henry Rollins in your face, but both Asya and Chloe were super-focused on the task at hand and with concentration (and maybe a little nervousness) etched on their faces the like of which you wouldn’t normally see on a 12- and 14-year old. Musically, Smoosh are almost critic-proof. Both sisters are perfectly solid on their instruments and the songwriting on Free To Stay, just released, is a hell of a lot more sophisticated than you’d expect. Yeah, their lyrics can be a little vague but how articulate or open were you at that age? And this will probably be the only time I say this about anyone, but I’d like to hear how their vocals sound when they have the lung capacity of an adult.
And back to Eels. I’d been told their live show was something to behold and you know what? I really was. Ostensibly touring in support of the Eels With Strings – Live At Town Hall album, this tour was dubbed “No Strings Attached” and good to their word, Eels performed as a three-and-a-half piece outfit. The half being a big Altamont-looking dude in a black “Security” t-shirt who acted as MC, dancer and spot guitarist and keyboardist. I don’t know where they found such a Renaissance man, but he was some piece of work, be it with his karate dance moves or his non-sequiter between-song one-liners. He, combined with the rest of Eels performing in matching jumpsuits, goggles and beards made for a suitably surreal visual experience. That it was obviously all tightly coreographed and planned didn’t take too much away from the Jared Hess-ian vibe (unless you really hate contrived absurdism, which I normally do but was willing to let it slide).
Though totally unfamiliar with pretty much every song, I could at least appreciate the energy and arrangements of Eels’ rough and rootsy sound. I suspect that Everett’s compositions are infinitely malleable and these were just one of many incarnations the songs have gone through – after all, there was no way they could have suited a string section the way they performed. On the whole, I enjoyed the show, particularly with the showmanship, though I am not possessed by any strong urge to go out and buy Shootenanny!. I should note the two-song encore was especially fun as the Smoosh girls ran out onstage and danced up a storm with Security Joe – apparently this is what they had been saving up all the energy from their own set for.
I was disappointed that there was a big “no photography” sign at the entrance to the club, so there’s no Smoosh photos. After all – I didn’t want to be the one who got tossed for taking pictures of pre-teen girls… but I did snap a few of Eels – sorry, but you can’t make your show that visual without expecting folks to want to capture some of that. And anyway, I wasn’t the first one to start clicking. Check them out here. I Am Fuel, You Are Friends has an Eels Black Session from 2000 up for grabs and Vagrant has an ecard for Live From Town Hall.
And on the cover of the new Magnet is Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch. The occasion is the 10th anniversary of the release of the band’s debut, Tigermilk. Incendiary has an expansive re-think of their whole catalog and there’s a couple new videos out there for watching – “The Blues Are Still Blue” has been around for a while, but “White Collar Boy” is brand spanking new.
np – Mojave 3 / Puzzles Like You