Eels – With Strings Live At Town Hall (CD)

Listeners will be confused if they necessarily expect “Electro-shock Blues” from this album. This is something that is much more scaled back and intimate than that album, a move that benefits all the songs on this disc. For the performance, the band recasts each of the songs that have made them famous; this is essentially a remix album done without a turntable or a copy of Cakewalk.

“Bus Stop Boxer” is a perfect example, being transformed into something almost haunting. This is accomplished through the use of non-traditional instruments being used on the track (xylophone and singing saw); Eels here are trying to expand their musical vocabulary through the focusing of their sound in different ways than previously. However, the tracks do not feel as if they were all created at different times, with different moods governing exactly how the tracks would sound. The twenty-two shots on this album have cohesive threads running through each song; this has the ability to allow Eels to recontextualize all of their back catalog. This is not KISS’ “Alive”, either; there is no masking over the human quality of Mr. E. This human quality is what fuels the tracks onto their ultimate end. Sure, if ey went into the studio and worked to clean up each of the tracks, the songs would sound “better” and more radio-worthy, but has not Eels already released each of the tracks on this album in that way?

The production of this album seems to hearken back to the early days of folk music due to the sense that Mr. E’s vocals stand tall above everything else on the track; while individuals may be more fans of the equal loudness approach, I feel as if individuals have the chances to really dissect the nuances of what Mr. E is saying during the entire disc. While I do not see the need for continued work in this style (this is a pretty definitive statement of change by the band), “With Strings Live At Town Hall” is something that fans and new listeners alike need to pick up to get a better idea of who the band is and what exactly they would like to do on each of their albums. There is never a dull moment on this disc, and listening to it may be enough of a cause to pull your old Eels albums out and give them another listen.

Top Tracks: Flyswatter, Novocaine For The Soul

Rating: 6.6/10

Eels – With Strings Live At Town Hall / 2006 Vagrant / 22 Tracks / http://www.eelstheband.com / http://www.vagrant.com / Reviewed 19 April 2006

[JMcQ]

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