He was the dog-faced boy. He likes birds. Hey man, now he’s really livin’. He’s Mark Oliver Everett, aka `E,’ aka MC Honky, and now he’s Hombre Lobo, the Wolfman. As this Spanish speaking lupine monster, he is giving into his desires, and those desires take the form of 12 brand new songs. Some of them cover your normal monstrous needs, as in the lead single, “Fresh Blood,” but the heavily bearded Everett proves on Hombre Lobo that desire takes many forms.
Over the last 17 years, Everett has been delving into nearly every nook and cranny of human existence, then turning his explorations into a revealing autobiography, a documentary about his physicist father, and a bunch of really great songs. Very few people have that rare ability to express deeply personal issues in an entertaining manner, and E’s done it over and over again. Interestingly, on past albums in which E has chosen to stray from the personal, he has donned a long disguising beard, as if the artifice of song is not enough of a barrier between him and his audience. For Hombre Lobo, Everett has grown out the beard for the first time since Souljacker, though without sacrificing exorcising some personal demons. It seems the beard merely makes a nice Cuban parallel to the cover’s homage to Cohiba cigars.
With a long live album, a double disc collection of `hits’ and videos, and another two discs of b-sides, it would seem as if E has been extraordinarily prolific. However, it’s been since 2005’s epic standout, Blinking Lights & Other Revelations that he’s graced us with any newly penned songs. Like Blinking Lights, Hombre Lobo is finely balanced with howling rave-ups and soul-baring beauties. Unlike Lights, Lobo is tight, or maybe it just seems that way after so many double albums.
The rave-ups are classic Eels, borrowing a little from John Lennon’s scratchy voiced oeuvre, but this time with some Stones-like bluesy numbers and even some Hendrix / Sly Stone guitar funk jams (“Fresh Blood”). But Hombre Lobo really succeeds in its slower, more revealing tracks, possibly because they hit the theme of desire more squarely than the others, as maybe only Brian Wilson could have pulled off previously. The self-consciousness and jealousy of “That Look You Give That Guy,” the desperation of “What’s a Fella Gotta Do,” and the longing of, well, “The Longing,” all tug at the heartstrings and ground fictional stories of desire into relatable reality. It’s hard for anyone who’s ever fallen for someone not to understand the pains of the near miss within “My Timing Is Off.”
Like I said before, the album cover of Hombre Lobo is a crafty homage to the Cohiba logo. And, like those fine Cuban cigars, the album has to be taken in slowly and savored. Some of the lyrics may be straightforward, and at times even forced goofy rhymes, but within each track resides a beating heart, and what could be more straightforward, yet complicated, than that?
Video: “Fresh Blood”