Eels - Manchester Academy - 17.10.01

Eels aren't a band who are content to just sit on their laurels, basking in the glory of their last successful album, the wonderful "Daises Of The Galaxy". They're back with not only a grungetastic new album "Souljacker", but with a new image to boot. Vocalist E is pictured on his tour poster as a kind of Unabomber type character complete with shocking bushy beard. More importantly the music has radically changed to such an extent that they almost sound like a completely new band( I say almost because there is no mistaking the dulcet tones of the one and only E).

Tonight they sound down right dirty with their sleazy riffs played to an ear splitting degree. E, dressed like a hillbilly - all rustic in his bright blue dungarees. Drummer Butch is quite happy in his casual slacks finished off as ever with his trademark cowboy hat, while ex PJ Harvey guitarist John Parish is a welcome addition to the new line up. Surprise of the night comes with their rendition of Missy Elliots "Get Yer Freak On" which is an absolute blinder.

"Dog Faced Boy" is a wonderful Stooges styled rocker which was performed with much more energy and enthusiasm than any of the so called Nu Metal bands around at the moment. While the new songs may lack the melodic charm of their predecessor they certainly make up for it in the sheer power of it all. The bluesy rock, surf guitar and feedback are occasionally let down by the seemingly endless jamming and muso improv. Older songs like "Mr E's Beautiful Blues" are adapted to the year 2001 with an adrenaline rush of loud guitars and thunderous drumming. Thankfully it isn't all macho rock and on "Souljacker" they demonstrate they still have that sensitive side, reminiscent of "Beautiful Freak" but with an elegant lilting slide guitar.

After the final encore I leave a little unsatisfied. Light years away from last years Palace theatre extravaganza the band failed to play "Novocain" and "Susan's House". Why? I don't know but what do you really expect from a band whose latest album is based on serial killer who takes away the souls of his victims.

Nicholas Paul Godkin