Any mention of The Eels conjures up thoughts of quirky, playful, and oftentimes beautiful music. With songs appearing in the movies Shrek and Anniversary Party and their hit single "Novocaine for the Soul," The Eels show their pop influences but with a dark twist.
Their latest release, Shootenanny!, is a venture into heavy blues territory, done according to the old Eels formula. The initial track, "All in a Day's Work," masterfully incorporates this theme, with its slow, laboring beat punctuated by grand flourishes. Other songs serve big helpings of the blues, with introspective, regretful and often dark lyrics, combined with sleepy, meandering melodies. Tracks like "The Gold Old Days," "Agony" and "Restraining Order Blues" all have this genuine bluesy quality. However, the novelty of this new style quickly wears out, making the songs droning, tedious drags on the album. None of them are especially catchy or memorable.
The better tracks of Shootenanny! seems to abandon the blues theme and embrace the sound of the past. "Saturday Morning" is a fast and upbeat pop song with catchy hooks. "Rock Hard Times" and "Wrong About Bobby" are fun and light-hearted songs that could be easily inserted into their previous albums. However, the best songs of Shootenanny! do not have the same draw as their previous work.
Shootenanny! has its brief moments of the quirky brilliance found in past Eels albums, but not enough to justify its purchase. Shootenanny! is only for the devoted Eels fan, casual listeners should keep away.