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January 22, 2009 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2009-01-22

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4B - Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

A 'Shock' to the heartstrings

Daily Arts Writer
Death is arguably the most unat-
tractive and least-used subject in
popular music. But E, Eels's front-
man and primary creative force,
doesn't care. On Electro-Shock
Blues, he delivers 16 tracks that
unremittingly attack the topic of
mortality. Writing about the loss
of loved ones came naturally to
E when he created the album; he
lost his father at a young age, his
sister committed suicide and, dur-
ing the recording of the album, his
mother lost a long battle with can-
cer. Instead ofignoring the passing
of his entire immediate family, E'
confronted the issue head-on. As a
result, he made a cathartic master-
piece that becomes more captivat-
ing, enchanting and breathtaking
with each listen.
Opener "Elizabeth on the Bath-
room Floor" acts as a suicide note,
read from perspective. The line
"My name is Elizabeth / My life is
shit and piss" is tough to swallow,
but does a fine job setting a dread-
fully dismal tone.
"Going to Your Funeral, Pt. 1"
follows with a deep, droning bass
line backed by a bongo whose hol-
low sound reflects the void felt by
all who attend the wake. Only two
tracks into the album, E's despon-
dency is unbearably palpable.

a cynic
his mo
of dist,
ic orga
stage fo
ing voic
ates a
flute an
its the f
funny /
liar I gu
my wa:
with its
rock bt
bility is
ing sca
the do
not OK
good /I

icer for the Cure" provides complete meltdown.
al and sarcastic outlook on "Going to Your Funeral, Pt. 2"
ther's condition. The mess abandons the unbearably heavy
orted guitars and electron- tone and replaces it with a lighter
in chords create a chaotic feel, highlighted by lush xylophone
appropriately setting the and clarinet sounds. Maybe this
r the song "My Descent Into radical and unexpected turnaround
ss," where E admits to hear- is a representation of the dramatic
ces in his head. contrast between the ups and
deceptive "3 Speed" gener- downs in E's life. Maybe it shows
simpler sound, employing a the potency of the previously cited
id twangy guitar as E exhib- pink pills. The beginning is unclear,
but E never looks back. He adopts
a sanguine attitude that acts as the
key ingredient in his rehabilitation,
im ism hidden which is visible over the course of
1ind m o1 rbi.d the second half of the album.
E decides to take comfort in a
state of contained contemplation.
"Climbingto the Moon" is a positive
irst glint of his wry sense of reflection on his sister's suicide, and
sm with one of the album's "Dead of Winter" follows suit as E
memorable lines: "Life is accepts his mother's prolonged bat-
'But not ha ha funny/ Pecu- tle with cancer. The closing track
ness /You think I got it going wins the awards for best song title
y / Then why am I such a and finest song on the album. "P.S.
mess?" You Rock My World" is the break-
the song proves to be mis- ing point when E finally admits,
, for the title track follows "Maybe it's time to live." Backed
bleak depiction of E hitting by a sweeping string section, the
ttom. His emotional insta- song's declaration of life's victory
reflected in lines like "Feel- in the face of death highlights the
red today ... A hundred times great paradox that lies at the heart
ctors say / I am OK ... I'ni ofElectro-Shock Blues. The idea that
." As the timid piano plods life can still be worth living in the
E mutters "Pink pill feels face of so much suffering is unusu-
Finally understood," and it's ally uplifting and brings the album
nt that he's on the verge of a to a triumphant close.

From page 1B
fulks stopping by to pick up
cheap beer and catch a good, up-
close-and-personal concert, the
Blind Pig has been an invaluable
resource for developing most
bands in the area.
Jason Berry, in charge of book-
ing for the venue, is primar-
ily responsible for selecting the
bands that come through, and he
doesn't forget a face.
"Once you're in their world,
theyhave avested interestinhelp-
ing you grow," said Jonathan Vis-
ger of local mainstay band Mason
Proper - a group of University
graduates whose new album Olly
Oxen Free recently garnered a
favorable review fromtherespect-
ed indie webzine Pitchfork. But
as much as Jason and the folks at
the Blind Pig do their best to help
out, there's still a seemingly end-
less amount of drudgework to be
done. "It's a matter of constantly
reminding people that you exist,"
Jonathan continued. "Bands that
ruthlessly self-promote tend to do
a lot better much quicker."
"You really have to promote
yourself," said Ryan Sloan of
Farewell Republic, an inventive
post-rock outfit that happens to
be playing a show tonight at the
Blind Pig with Detroit's Satin
Peaches. "In Ann Arbor, you learn
how to build your chops as a pro-
motion machine."
In actuality, promoting shows
extends far beyond the thousands
of posters adorning Ann Arbor's
fagades: Tools like Facebook
and MySpace prove essential to
reaching larger crowds, and local
press is more than happy to put in
a blurb about an upcoming show
every now and then.
While most bands that call Ann
Arbor home would be considered
"indie," the term has become as
broad as, say, "alternative" was
by the end of the '90s. The broad
spectrum of "indie iock" serves
as an umbrella term for the eclec-
tic sounds present across the Ann
Arbor music scene. Bands like
Lightning Love are notably pep-
pier, with more dance and pop-
oriented sounds. Atthe same time,
there are plenty of other more lay-
ered and guitar-driven acts like
Starling Electric and Farewell
Republic. Heck, My Dear Disco is
even known to break out the bag-
pipes in its live shows. Since there
are so many bands all wit differ-
ent sounds, there has to be some
competition, right?
"No, not at all," Sloan said.
"Everybody helps each other out,
and it makes for a really great
The cooperative environment
he describes is most apparent
in the shared bills at the Blind


Pig, thi
called I
roots rr
day nil
above t
It's m
as Dun
I guara
ally con
local sc
Ann Ar
years. P
scene t''
ing An
the ba
they ne
sense c
or ra

e constant plugging of one iTunes can never offer.
ts shows and something "They love what they do," says
Bluegrass Night. Caleb Dillon of Starling Electric,
egrass Night is a great a vibrant quartet which released
said Duncan of My Dear its stunning CloudedStaircase last
Organized by local pro- year, and will be playing at the
Matthew "Tuna" Altruda, Blind Pig Friday night with Light-
ass Night is a free night of ning Love. "Just like us, when
nusic held every Wednes- they hear something they really
ght at Circus Bar & Grill love, they go out and tell people
he Cavern nightclub. about it."
sore of a gathering of local Despite so much support from
ins than anything else, all involved in the local scene, the
can explains: "You go to student crowd as a whole doesn't
ass Night a few times, and always reflect their enthusiasm.
ntee that you will eventu- It's hard to blame them, consider-
me across everyone on the ing the array of parties and clubs
'ene." that decorate Ann Arborunightlife,
.1 music shops thrive in though many would say students
bor, contrary to the sharp just have too much going on.
in larger music stores "It seems like (students) are
pulled in a lot of directions at
once. They're involved with too
many things to take the time to
rebook beats come out to shows all the time,"
Caleb said. "And ina city as active
yers for get- as Ann Arbor, it's difficult to
know everything that's going on
ng the word at once.
Still, it seems that there could
always be more enthusiasm sur-
rounding local music, record
the country in recent stores or venues.
'laces like Wazoo Records, But behind the cynicism and
round Sounds, Encore unimportance typically placed
and PJ's Records have an around local music, there's always
ant place in the local music the hope that someone will take a
hemselves, many promot- chance. Someone will walk over
n Arbor bands' upcoming to Wazoo or Underground Sounds
or new albums with large instead of clicking on iTunes;
e posters. Some show their another will stop by the Blind
t by purchasing CDs from Pig and be pleasantly surprised
nds, regardless of their by that one band that had all of
nce in the album's selling those posters. With new people
- their faith in the bands comes new enthusiasm, and with
ives is all the assurance the constant influx of students,
ed. there are always people willing to
grassroots support is take that chance. In a local scene
to these smaller, more as storied, dynamic and eclectic
rown shops, creating a as Ann Arbor's, there's no doubt
of hospitality that larg-' people will continue to find music
ilers like Wal-Mart and worth sharine with the world. 4



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