Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s featured selection, chosen by Midday Show host Cheryl Waters, is “Fresh Blood” by EELS from from the 2009 album Hombre Lobo on Vagrant Records.
Mark Oliver Everett or “E” experienced his first bit of commercial success back in 1996 following the formation of EELS with Jonathan “Butch” Norton and Tommy Walter. Their debut album — the first to be released by a fledgling Dreamworks — Beautiful Freak cruised to #5 on the UK charts in large part due to the strength of its now famous singles “Novocaine for the Soul and “My Beloved Monster.” E’s special brand of pop torment immediately garnered the attention of fans around the world earning the band a “Best International Breakthrough Act” award at the 1998 BRIT Awards and inclusion on such high-profile film soundtracks as Shrek and Scream.
Though not the commercial smash of its predecessor, E’s follow-up, Electro-Shock Blues, is an intensely moving account personal hardships experienced in the years following Beautiful Freak. Often seen as depressing to the point of morbidity, Electro-Shock‘s frank depiction of suicide, cancer and depression is peppered with glimmering jewels of hope. While the album remains a defining moment in EELS history, the breadth of its sadness has never really been matched since. Over the course of the next five albums, beginning with Daisies of the Galaxy, E has moved in an increasingly light, upbeat direction. This movement away from the dreary moments in life in favor of a more rockin’ positivity continues with EELS most recent release, Hombre Lobo. Grungy and poppy all at once, this new batch of songs were written from the perspective of the werewolf character depicted in his song “Dog Faced Boy.” About his having supposedly not shaved his beard since writing the song (um, 1992!?), Hombre would on the surface appear autobiographical –- and it most definitely is — just not as blatantly so as albums like Beautiful Freak and Electro-Shock Blues. Like so many great artists, including Bowie, Reed, Oldham, Dylan, Jurado, and just about anyone with a longish career, E sings through the mask of another in an effort to shed attachment and free himself to cut deeper. The results are refreshing. Today’s Song of the Day, “Fresh Blood,” is a goofy, lighthearted blend of E’s blues-infused guitar, brooding rhythms and loveable voice. Some musical combination of “Cancer for the Cure” and “Last Stop: This Town,” the song is cinematic and shadowy, lending itself nicely to a blood red Jacob Dylan-directed music video depicting a slow-moving E in hot pursuit of love:
Don’t forget to catch EELS on The Late Show with David Letterman, on CBS tonight, June 17th, at 11:30pm Eastern/Pacific. So far, there are no shows scheduled to support the album, but keeping checking their MySpace page because judging by past history, they most certainly will.