After the 1996 radio hit "Novocaine for the Soul," the Eels came back with the tormented Electro-Shock Blues, a concept album that chronicled, with brutal honesty, the suicide of songwriter E's sister and the impending cancer-related death of his mother. After going back into the studio and creating some more devastated noise, E took some time out and reemerged with Daisies of the Galaxy, a bright, sprightly, nearly acoustic album that sounds as soft and pastel-hued as the album's cover art which E found in an old German children's book. Gone are the garrulous samples and distorted guitar. E's voice meanders in hushed tones through wide open fields filled with lilting guitars; he twirls around the maypole with loping horns; and giggles lazily with shuffling string arrangements. On first listen, this sounds like the sort of sweet, playful pop that created superstars in the early '60s, but there is still genuine melancholy tugging at E's heart. And that's what makes Daisies worth listening to again. "It's a beautiful day," sings E with weary resolve, while instruments frolic around his feet. Mimes, birds, and mice scurry through his lyrical landscape, conjuring oddly poignant memories that only serve to remind us of our mortality. "I think I'm on the brink of disaster," he sings with childlike aplomb in one of the most enthusiastic songs on Daisies. "It's a motherfucker/ Being here without you," he whispers over a pretty little piano line. Rising out of the depths of his sorrow to find sunny days and sweet-smelling rains happen with or without our participation, E has stumbled on a disarming combination of childlike gaiety and heart-rending openness that is far more evocative than any amount of furious flailing could be. The Eels perform on Saturday, June 24 at Great American Music Hall at 9 p.m. Ticket price is $10 in advance, $12 at the door; call 885-5075.
The original lineup of YBO2 has not performed together in nearly 15 years, but having given rise to a number of popular Japanese bands such as Zeni Geva, the Ruins, White Heaven, and Ghost, interest in the deconstructionist rock outfit has never been higher. As my roommate so delicately pointed out, it's an informed taste. Their violent concept album Alientation features a 12-minute leveling of the folk song "Scarborough Fair"; it's funny if not a bit plodding. But their shows, which have always featured elaborate makeup, blood-splattered stuffed animals, and space alien costumes are anything but. YBO2 perform on Saturday, June 24 at Bottom of the Hill with psychedelic space music of SubArachnoid Space and the beautiful, atmospheric shadows of Amber Asylum opening at 9:30 p.m. Ticket price is $7; call 621-4455.