Daisies of the Galaxy, the latest release from a man named E — also known as a “band” named Eels, plays like a demented nursery rhyme. The melodies are old and familiar, the rhyme schemes are Mother Goose-simple, but the off-kilter production and lyrics betray the music in a manner that would be ironic if the whole thing weren’t delivered with so much conviction.
E’s songs are strongest when they’re personal — or at least in the first person, so those who are disgusted by self-pity would do well to steer clear. But, for a moper, E gets a lot of mileage out of what goes on in his own head, and all that seething introspection on the slow songs makes the rock numbers sound like a relief rather than just attempts at singles. The semi-aggressive, unlisted final track and the radio friendly “Sound of Fear” are two of the record’s most notable rave-ups and they’re placed perfectly to break up the pity party before things get too maudlin for comfort.
Surprisingly, for such a simple record Daisies of the Galaxy is never boring. Much of the credit for this goes to E’s considerable gift for hooks (well demonstrated on the Eels’ one radio hit, “Novocaine for the Soul”), but the sound of the record plays a part as well. All of the arrangements are lovely, particularly the spare “It’s a Motherfucker”; but the strange and noisy sounds on “Tiger In My Tank” and the aforementioned final track are just as good, and amazingly, just as subtle.
Ultimately Daisies of the Galaxy is a fine pop record in an era that seems uninterested in pop unless it’s marketed with dance steps and a quicky bio. Though not the equal of the best work of Stephen Merritt or Elliot Smith, Daisies of the Galaxy is worthy of attention by alterna-pop fans and anyone else desperate for catchy music for grown-ups.