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Eels 

Daisies of the Galaxy (DreamWorks)

On 1998's Electro-Shock Blues, Eels frontman E chronicled his family's tragic period of loss. His sister's downward spiral to suicide and his mother's long illness leading up to her death made for a depressing listen. But through the pain, E managed to wring out a tinge of optimism. It's a highly intense and personal work, but also one that's sparked with merry pop songs that belie the doom at their core.

Electro-Shock Blues' sequel, Daisies of the Galaxy, spreads the hope even further. This is E's true Novocain for the soul. Cheerily positive and even giddy at times, E pictures the world on a new, brightly hued canvas. It's also his personal celebration of triumph over everything he's been through the past few years. The songs settle into the same poppy buoyancy of those on Electro-Shock Blues, but this time they actually fit the topic.

Still pretty much working by himself as a one-man band, E enlists a couple of heavyweights for rhythmic assistance. But bassist Grant Lee Phillips and multi-instrumentalist Peter Buck are all but lost in E's sonic harmony. The melodies adapt the same start-stop/push-pull grooves of their predecessors, never really allowing Daisies of the Galaxy to break off from its past. In a way, since this is a proper follow-up, it's not meant to be a departure. Yet there's also not much to distinguish this set of songs from those on Blues (on which the paradoxical misery provided a piquant mix). From the marching band intro of "Grace Kelly Blues" to the plaintive piano ballad "Selective Memory," E arranges an aural wonderland for his tunes. It's a playful, peppy blend, even if it is a familiar one. He does pull out one sly trick here, though. Daisies of the Galaxy's first single (and best song), "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues," isn't even included as part of the anti-elegiac song cycle. It's an unnamed bonus track tacked on to the disc's end with little hoopla. But its chorus aptly serves as E's rosy anthem: "Goddamn right it's a beautiful day."

More by Michael Gallucci

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