Album Review

Eels, 'Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire'

June 1, 2009
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Indie Rock
Eels Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire
ESSENTIAL "That Look You Give That Guy"

The werewolf howl that kicks off "Prizefighter" makes it seem as though "Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire" is going to be another one of Eels mastermind E's irascible-codger excursions. But it quickly becomes evident that the openhearted vulnerability of 2005's "Blinking Lights and Other Revelations" was a turning point, not a detour. Of course, E being E, things aren't quite so simple. Perhaps unnerved by evincing actual human emotions, he wraps the album in a conceit - an entire suite of songs written from the perspective of the Dog Faced Boy from 2001's "Souljacker" - that does its best to diminish it. But there remains a crack in E's facade revealing the Mark Oliver Everett underneath. It's hard not to wish that there were more remnants of his earlier studio-nerd genius; there's the twist-beat and buzz-bass of "Lilac Breeze" and the plod of "Tremendous Dynamite," but there's no build to them. Even so, if "In My Dreams," "My Timing Is Off," and "All the Beautiful Things" (which sounds like a commercial for a family health plan) don't budge an inch from where they begin, neither did the songs on Bob Dylan's "John Wesley Harding." (Out tomorrow) MARC HIRSH