TITLE: Beautiful Freak
YEAR RELEASED: 1996
CHART ACTION: #114 US, #5 UK
SINGLES: Novocaine for the Soul (#1 US Modern Rock, #10 UK), Susan’s House (#9 UK), Your Lucky Day in Hell (#35 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Rags to Rags, Beautiful Freak
LINEUP: E (Mark Everett), Jonathan Norton, Tommy Waller, Jon Brion, Mark Goldenberg, Jim Jacobson
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Singer of songs forms a band to arrange and record his compositions and results in an alternative and UK hit.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Combining samples, loops, standard alt-rock sounds, and a world-weary gruff vocal style, Mark Everett’s Eels struck it fairly big with “Novocaine for the Soul” and this debut album.
The usage of the samples and other interesting arrangements keeps this out of what was becoming a cliché – the earnest alternative singer / songwriter singing sad songs in a gruff voice. Everett’s songs mine some of the usual fare – anxiety, depression, bad relationships, bad neighborhoods, but the arrangements and his gift for melody lift the record past its contemporaries.
In the UK, they ate this up (as you can see). Here in the US, it was a staple of ‘alternative rock’ stations that sprung up all over the place in the 90’s. It was worthy of airplay, since it was unique, but radio friendly. The production made it stand out on the radio when so many other songs in that format were quite similar.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: Everett had released some solo records as “E” in the early 90’s, and Eels was a way to try to get these records in the same bin.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A German release has some radio sessions..
GRADE: A-: This grows on you, thanks to the samples and other production and arrangement tricks.