ALBUM REVIEWS: EELS and TOM BAXTER
Meet The Eels: Essential Eels Vol 1 1996-2006
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If you've never heard Eels, this is your golden gateway into main man E's marvellously lo-fi, alt-rock world. His sweetly hoarse vocals illuminate deft lyrics, vivid tales of American suburbia and the depths of the human psyche. Here, 24 examples of the band's consistently idiosyncratic, highly acclaimed and frequently brilliant output are gathered from all six albums, plus a cover of Missy Elliott's Get Ur Freak On, I Need Some Sleep from the Shrek 2 soundtrack and 12 videos on a bonus DVD. For long-time fans, just download the unreleased tracks and seek out the accompanying set Useless Trinkets: B-Sides, Soundtracks, Rarities And Unreleased 1996-2006 - your Holy Grail.
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Breaking off relations with Sony after his debut 2004 album flopped, Tom decided to go it alone and financed the recording of Skybound with his own hard-earned cash. It's thanks to his dedication, then, that it has turned out so sweetly. Recent single Better reflects the album's largely love-centric subject matter and - for some - wishy-washy temperament, but the Spanish-influenced Tell Her Today is upbeat, while strong, simple piano riffs and Tom's quivering, vulnerable vocals will appeal to many. Boasting top-drawer production to boot, Tom has hatched a touching, often compelling set of pop-oriented songs that will doubtless be all over the radio waves in 2008.
- STEPHEN MOORE