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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.

MP3: Eels – “Sweet L’il Thing”
MP3: Smoosh – “Find A Way”
MySpace: Eels
MySpace: Smoosh

Magnet asks Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore about new album Rather Ripped.

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.

Video: Belle & Sebastian – “The Blues Are Still Blue” (YouTube)
Video: Belle & Sebastian – “White Collar Boy” (YouTube)

Nick White tells Flagpole that he had no problem with making Tilly & The Wall’s Bottom Of Barrels available to download for free. Which they did.

np – Mojave 3 / Puzzles Like You

By : Frank Yang at 9:16 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Queen of Sheba says:

    I thought the sound was a bit crappy–they didn’t make the most of their songs, doing "Last Stop, This Town" all twee and acoustic. Like a lotta bands live, they were trying to rock out too hard and ignoring whether that’d do well with any given song.

  2. Jon S. says:

    Indeed, the sound was very crappy. I thought it was a good setlist with a bunch of covers and b-sides thrown in for the hardcores. I kept waiting for Crazy Al (security) to pick up his bass and he never did.

    eels are known to do no fewer than 3 encores per show, but since it was an early show we only got one. Too bad.

  3. Ts says:

    Eels show was a total grinner. Great tunes, hilarity and total fun with Smoosh girls on stage. Sound was a little wonky – but really nothing to complain about! If you can’t enjoy an evening of a million genres, and the security dude spraying cheese in people’s mouths, what can you enjoy?

  4. Heather says:

    Hey, thanks for the link. Funny thing is, I linked to you today – that Paper Moon track. So the lovin’ flows both ways.

  5. Frank says:

    It wasn’t spray cheese, just whipped cream. Spray cheese would have been infinitely cooler.

    I was right up front so I couldn’t comment on the house sound. I was getting a faceful of baritone guitar through a mesa boogie.

  6. TomO says:

    I caught this show on the Boston stop a few days before hand.

    Crazy Al, as someone pointed out, was the security dude. On the "Live with Strings" tour, he played stand-up bass, among other instruments. It was a completely different kind of set, as it was from whne I saw them touring for Shootenanny! (although that tour was closer to this one, but without the bizarre antics and spraying of whipped cream). Each tour seems to be different than the last, but always full of energy, and this tour was the "hardest" of all the shows I’ve seen of them. Then again, I’ve never seen any show where I’d describe the band as a security guard, a fighter pilot, fidel castro, and Charles Daniels in a civil war uniform.

    Shootenanny is worth your money. Best of their efforts.

    And in Boston, we got a second enocore after a about 1/4 of the crowd refused to leave. They came back and played with house lights on and costumes half off for two more songs.

  7. Frank says:

    unauthorized downloads make baby Sufjan cry.