Album Review: Eels – Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire

[Vagrant; 2009]

Eels’ last proper album 2004’s Blinking Lights and Other Revelations was a sprawling 90 minute, 33 track double album that discussed the topics of life and death and almost everything in between. Five years on the follow-up Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire is exactly that; 12 songs focused on one sole topic: the desire for female contact.

E seems to have two ways of expressing his desire on this album; firstly the watching from afar, private kind and secondly the cruder and more in-your-face, “I want it” kind. He evokes these two differing approaches alternately almost throughout the whole album.

The album opens with the lilting ‘Prizefighter’ which is a simple and catchy statement of intent. The second track on the album ‘That Look You Give That Guy’ is a crushingly honest song of longing; “that look you give that guy I wanna see looking right at me,” sings E in a hoarse falsetto that invokes a sense of pity within the listener. This song is shortly followed up by ‘Lilac Breeze’ which features much more direct and crude lyrics that destroy the atmosphere of the previous pearl featuring the lines “birds do it, bees do it, I wanna do it / All we gotta do is get down to it.” This trick of switching moods from reflective to lascivious is put into action several more times. ‘In My Dreams’ is a laid back daydream song (“Whatever’s wrong with me her kiss redeems / and it’s all there in my dreams”) that is instantly blown out of the water by the bombastic ‘Tremendous Dynamite’ (“On the prowl for a restless night / got her right here in my sights / got a fuse that I can’t light / she’s tremendous, she’s dynamite”).

‘The Longing’ would be considered a beautiful ode to a woman were it not for the sinister guitar line that gives the lyrics a darker context. The line “I can’t think of one single thing that matters more than just to see her” certainly has stalker connotations to it, which are enforced by the follow up track ‘Fresh Blood’ which is unabashedly about a man following an innocent girl through the night. With it’s creeping bassline and heavy drum-machine use as well as E howling in the chorus, ‘Fresh Blood’ is the most original and interesting song on the album, bringing a swagger that is unfortunately not found anywhere else.

Musically there is nothing outstanding to be found on this album. Gone are the horns that added grit and gave an edge to older songs like the Electro-Shock Blues track ‘Hospital Food’. E is heard flying solo without the accompaniment of bass or drums on three tracks ‘The Longing’, ‘Ordinary Man’ and ‘All The Beautiful Things’ but only the latter features a string arrangement that elevates it to a gorgeous ballad rather than being left to plod along unchangingly to the finish as the other two are.

If you are willing to buy into E’s Hombre Lobo (meaning werewolf) character you could argue that the downbeat songs of longing reflect his regular side whilst the louder more in your face numbers are more reflective of the hombre lobo on a night of a full moon, but overall that isn’t enough to save this album from being repetitive and a re-hash of everything that Eels have done before. Overall the album is pleasant enough, the raw emotion in some of the songs will capture your attention, but the lack of consistency throughout the album means that sadly it will shortly be lost along with your patience as you wait to hear something new.