This may be a weird thing to do… I’m adding this entire cd to the hymnal, lock stock and barrel. It’s not that often that one finds a cd that is full of music that is grounded in grief, these songs won’t be great in a normal church setting, but then again I wonder how many of the other songs I’ve added would fit perfectly into a cathedral service, they come from a different world entirely.
E wrote this cd after his sister’s suicide, that would explain some of the lyrics and the darkness of the songs, but to tell you the truth it’s up in my top 20 favorite cds of all times for it’s honesty. It’s honest, it’s painful, it’s confused, it’s blunt, it’s ugly in parts and it’s beautiful in others, this cd is a journey through grief that one takes from teh first track to the final track, I don’t believe that one song can be taken out of the cd and be fully understood without the others.
Once upon a time we were doing a service on grief, we’d threw around some song titles and some artists but a couple of us just kept on coming back to Electroshock Blues, why shouldn’t we play this in church? Why would this be a bad cd to play?
Truth be told, looking at grief I can’t think of a better cd to add to the hymnal than this…
The eels’ “electro-shock blues” is an album that inspires both fervid condolences and wholehearted congratulations.
Both should go to E, the California trio’s lead singer, who was digging through the emotional sewage left over from his sister’s suicide, his mother’s battle with terminal cancer, the deaths of several friends and the childhood memory of finding his dad dead of a stroke.
Initially, he says, he shied away from packaging his intensely personal grief into his music. But he ultimately decided to alchemize it into a phenomenally harrowing yet singularly uplifting album that brings death to life.
At times zippy, at times deeply despondent, the album is a gentle, at times buoyant exploration of the devastation of death, and ultimately a reaffirmation of life. On the concept album that could be best filed under uneasy listening, the 16 songs about suicide, funerals, cancer and the inevitability of dying deal “with common dark problems in a way unique musical setting,” says E.
“My family and friends had died. I tried to ignore that from a creative standpoint, because it wasn’t too inspiring and felt too personal,” says E. “But as time went on I started to get excited about it creatively, because I felt I could tie my own experience together and make it meaningful to everyone.”
“I got excited about sharing it when I realized that I’m a survivor and I better enjoy my right now,” he adds. “I’m in touch with the idea of mortality.”
Album was ‘completely therapeutic’
“This album was completely therapeutic, a big emotional s-t I had to take,” he says. “I’m a much better person for it. But I don’t expect the world to get something out it.”
Hopefully, though, it will, through a series of songs that sketch a lucid portrait of E’s losses. On the tranquil “3 Speed,” E croons that he longs for “a pony and a birthday cake/ Want a party with a scary clown,” as he yearns for simple childhood, for some insight and explanation into the inexplicable. He bashes random violence on the dark, swing-flavored Morphine-esque “Hospital Food,” chanting that “You still got it coming be it gun be it knife. Next thing you know you’re eating hospital food.” The title song, perhaps the most tender piece on the album, is a childish lullaby, as E croons comforting words to himself: “I am OK, I am OK … I am trying.”
E may jokingly refer to the album as a wake, but he says that his label, DreamWorks Records, never pressured him to produce something more infectious and radio-friendly — and with some obvious airplay candidates, which this album lacks. It may not be an easy sell in the day where bland is often considered best, but he hopes that listeners won’t be driven away by the album’s mirthless subject matter.
“The album is very musical and tuneful, and it shouldn’t scare people away. It deals with scary issues, but it’s not cartoonish. These are dark issues that everyone has to deal with,” says E.
Elizabeth On the Bathroom Floor
Going to your Funeral, Pt. 1
Cancer for the Cure
My Descent into Madness
Going to your Funeral, Pt. 2
Last Stop: This Town
Climbing to the Moon
Dead of Winter
The Medication is Wearing Off
P.S. You Rock My World