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Released in June 2009, Hombre Lobo is the first in a trilogy of albums released over 14 months by the band, and over the course of the three albums we're told the story of a relationship and its turbulent history.
When I say 'the band', Eels is predominantly the work of one man, Mark Oliver Everett (often known as Mr E or just plain 'E'), who lives & works in California, and has a rotating cast of band members. Eels' music has frequently been featured on film soundtracks over the years, for instance the first three Shrek films and Shrek the Halls each had at least one of their songs included.
For this particular album, Eels' 7th, his co-musicians were Knuckles on drums and Koool G Murder on bass guitar, with E playing guitar and taking care of vocals. There are more instruments on here than that but the credits on here are very limited - some of the mysteries can be solved by watching the 'Making of' documentary. Koool G also co-wrote some of the songs with E, and the album was produced by E himself, so it really is the work of quite a small team.
Hombre Lobo, or 'Werewolf', refers back to a song on an earlier album, Souljacker (2001), when E sang about the 'Dog Faced Boy', a kid who was persecuted by the neighbourhood for his hairy-faced appearance. To some extent this album is a continuation of his story, what happened when he grew up and how he tries and fails to fit in and succeed. However it actually seems a lot more autobiographical and personal, with the character just being used as a vehicle for expressing or telling the story.
DISC 1: THE ALBUM
1. PRIZEFIGHTER : The album starts off a whoopin' and a hollerin', with a riff reminiscent of Bowie's Jean Genie, showing off about how good a prospect he is!
2. THAT LOOK YOU GIVE THAT GUY : A gentle wistful song wishing that 'his' girl would look at him, and how well he'd treat her if she were his.
3. LILAC BREEZE : Back to the boundless enthusiasm - this song of a desperate man who's sick of waiting is driven along by the drums and rhythm guitar.
4. IN MY DREAMS : One of Mr E's beautiful love songs, with a lovely acoustic riff guiding it along. The dream is idyllic, spending a summer's day away from it all with the girl that he idolises.
5. TREMENDOUS DYNAMITE : The source of the album title is in these lyrics, a grunge-fuelled adoration, and a hint of Hombre Lobo's wild side...
6. THE LONGING : Mr E, a guitar, a keyboard, and an echo. Here is an expression of the despair that is to set in, and the obsession with the object of his desire. He thinks through all of the things that he admires, all of the tiny details. There's almost a creepy dimension to this song the more you listen to it, almost as if the words are about a stalker's activities.
7. FRESH BLOOD : The sinister feel continues, as Hombre Lobo, Wolf Man, starts to betray his nature - there's a LOT of howling in this loping, creepy number!
8. WHAT'S A FELLA GOTTA DO : Extreme frustration sets in, the insistent drumbeat fuels the feel of irritation and urgency of this song, with the guitar almost incidental. The song builds into a three part harmony, which I love, almost as if he's shouting three different demands at once.
9. MY TIMING IS OFF : He's calmed down again, and begins to blame himself, or at least becomes more philosophical in this musically unremarkable ditty - it's a good link piece though.
10. ALL THE BEAUTIFUL THINGS : One of E's trademark songs, a sweet, longing song with a lovely tune and beautiful instrumentation - acoustic guitar, I think a toy piano for a tinkling sound, and possibly a cello. He wishes that things would work out, but admits for the first time that he knows that she doesn't care... even so he'd rather stay in the world where she is than leave it behind.
11. BEGINNER'S LUCK : He gets his hopes up again in this lively plan for future matrimony.
12. ORDINARY MAN : The album closes with a slow, thoughtful plea, just voice and guitar, to the girl who he still believes is the only one who will understand him.
I have the two-disc digi-pack, each release in the trilogy comes in either a standard jewel case with a single disc, or a two-disc folding card digipak, which in this case houses the album on CD and also:
DISC 2 : TREMENDOUS DYNAMITE: MAKING HOMBRE LOBO DOCUMENTARY
This DVD is a great insight into the recording process. The very small team involved are all crammed into E's basement or whatever part of the house they're working in, and thrashing out the arrangements and stuff. It's fascinating watching how the initial enthusiasm gradually turns into just wanting it all to be done already and E wanting his house back!
In my opinion, this is a great collection, they work together very well in terms of balancing the quicker and slower, louder and quieter songs, and it's well worth getting hold of the two-disc set for the documentary!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 That Look You Give That Guy
3 Lilac Breeze
4 In My Dreams
5 Tremendous Dynamite
6 The Longing
7 Fresh Blood
8 What's A Fella Gotta Do
9 My Timing Is Off
10 All The Beautiful Things
11 Beginner's Luck
12 Ordinary Man