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Eels | Oh What A Beautiful Morning (E-Works)
The live album has seen a resurgence of credibilty of late (witness recent offerings from Built To Spill, Arab Strap, Cowboy Junkies and The Posies), as has the internet-only 'Artist Direct' ethic of Aimee Mann, Michael Penn, Cowboy Junkies and, now, Eels. Quite possibly out of print by the time you read this, but worthy of note all the same, Oh What A Beautiful Morning documents the recent travels of the current live incarnation of Mark Everett's twisted pop outcasts. Ever-present skinsman and sidekick Butch were joined by multi-instrumentalist Lisa Germano and a four piece horn section for the Daisies of the Galaxy tour, and take E's essentially simple ditties and dip them wholesale into a variety of flavourings with never less than tasty results. Recorded across the globe though primarily sourced from shows in Los Angeles and Glasgow (cue Butch's rant at the inadequacy of British plumbing, Hot & Cold), the set begins with the solo rendition of Feeling Good (popularised by Nina Simone via British advertising), before the anti-commercialism of Overture (without the presence of E) sets four of his most popular songs (Last Stop: This Town, Rags To Rags, Your Lucky Day In Hell and Novocaine For The Soul) along with three others into an instrumental easy-listening medley. Such reinvention makes the live Eels experience an enthralling one and worthy of capture on disc. Deadpan humour and a calculated slickness disguised as improvisation are further trademarks of an Eels show, all in evidence here. My only misgiving, and a criticism aimed at many a live recording is the lack of flow caused by the fading in/out between some tracks that denies the atmosphere of 'being there.' Also, the incidentals (such as the throwaway piano instrumental Abortion in the Sky, or Butch's aformentioned turn in the spotlight) don't translate well in the relative comfort of the home, but minor quibbles aside OWABM is as good a live set as one can expect, E's world-view once again probably lost on a section of the audience for whom the radio-friendly past of Beautiful Freak remains their blueprint. "Taking a walk down to the mall, smelling piss and beer and gas / That could be me in a couple years, sucking fumes under the highway pass" begins the closer Something is Sacred, giving the crowd hoping to leave 'feeling good' with something to think about.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001