Eels – Extreme Sorcery | Comments

The many incarnations and iterations of Eels have produced a galaxy of works, all spiraling around the central star – or should it be a black hole – which is Mr. E himself. Currently in a more stable phase, “Extreme Witchcraft” sees Eels reuniting with English producer John Parrish and, in doing so, tapping into their raw roots.

“Amateur Hour” is a catchy opening gambit, combining the precocity of garage punk with bubblegum pop – like Jon Spencer facing the Archies, in essence. “Amateur Hour,” a quick intro, leads into an album that builds on Eels’ mix of catchy 60s influences and post-punk innovations.

“Good Night On Earth,” for example, has a fuzzy bass line taken from an electro record, while “Steam Engine” is a distorted moonlit R&B track that seems to shake the bones of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. “Stumbling Bee” reaffirms those soulful inclinations, with “Better Living Through Desperation” pairing E’s jet-black pun with a Bob Diddley medley.

Still, that’s not all garage punk looks. “Learning While I Lose” is a simple but infectious Paul Simon nursery rhyme; “Grandfather Clock Strikes Twelve,” meanwhile, is a playful homage to Daisy Age hip-hop with its wah-wah licks, neat keys, and fast E delivery.

A work of mischievous maturity, “Extreme Witchcraft” is Eels at its finest, with the group’s carefree magic still delivering thrills, even after all these years. While it doesn’t rank among their absolute best work, in terms of guitar songwriting, it more than delivers.

7/10

Words: Robin Murray

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