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Reassuring Words About Resilience of the Spirit

*** 1/2 EELS, "Daisies of the Galaxy," DreamWorks

March 12, 2000|ROBERT HILBURN

Eels' last album, 1998's brilliant "Electro-Shock Blues," was a reflection on death and dislocation so uncompromisingly stark that it must have tested the tolerance of even the fiercest admirers of the L.A. cult band.

So it's a bit unsettling when the first sounds you hear on this follow-up (due in stores Tuesday) are 17 seconds of a New Orleans-style funeral march. But the clouds soon part this time, as Eels' leader E tries to assure us that he's starting to feel fine again.

"I'm doing pretty good as of now," he sings in the opening "Grace Kelly Blues," a title that tips you off that E is still haunted by some memories. "Packing blankets and dirty sheets/A roomful of dust/And a broom to sweep up/All the troubles/You and I have seen," he offers in the next tune.

Some of these 14 songs seem slight, no more than momentary thoughts on an afternoon stroll, but others capture marvelously the delicate condition of someone who has been through personal trauma. At times, E's easygoing, understated pop-rock style combines the optimism of the Beatles' spry melodies and the reassuring tones of some of Tom Petty's best compositions.

After back-to-back deaths in his family, E still isn't ready to throw a rock 'n' roll party (though he gives us a touch of one in a bonus track, "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues"), but he does seem in good enough shape to stop by the living room for a visit, and it's welcome indeed.


Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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