Thursday, July 29, 2010

Feel free to skip the preamble and go straight to the video of the hot girl assassin

Sit, Ubu, sitBeing really good at your job must be a real pain in the backside. Not only would you be irritated by everyone else Constantly Doing It Wrong, but they'd ostracise you for making them look bad in front of the boss.

Mark "E" Everett has that problem. As the lynchpin of Eels, he's seen various band members come and go, all while churning out an endless stream of peerless indie-pop from his bedroom. The problem is, he's become almost too good at it.

Take, for example, his new song Spectacular Girl. If I had written this, I'd be over the moon. It's honest, heartwarming, catchy and tender - a perfect example of the suburban love song. But in the context of the Eels' past output - tracks like Susan's House or Your Lucky Day In Hell - it feels slight. Dashed off, even.

I suspect that the secrets of songwriting have, with years of practice, become second nature to E - to the extent that he can complete a song within hours of the initial idea popping into his head. Set up the drum machine, sketch out the verse, add a rise before the chorus, switch around the chord structure for the middle eight, double track the vocals, add strings for emphasis, tap it three times with the magic wand and, Izzy Wizzy Let's Get Busy, a finished single!

But if you come to rely too heavily on these tricks, you're in danger of stagnating. One of the most successful songwriters of the last 30 years, Jimmy Jam, says that he buys a new keyboard every time he starts working on a project. That way, he's forced onto the back foot. Learning new software and playing with new sounds leads to mistakes, which leads to discoveries, which leads to innovation.

(There's probably a lesson in there for any of us who've been stuck in the same job for too long...)

This is kinda sorta the message of the video for Spectacular Girl. It stars a secretary who is stifled by her job, and takes up night work that harnesses her hidden talents (one of those talents is the ability to change into skintight leather trousers during a 15-storey elevator ride, which is probably enough to get you your own reality show these days.)

It looks like this:

Eels - Spectacular Girl

The Eels' new album - Tomorrow Morning - is out on 24 August. It's their third in 12 months, which should really make Kate Bush feel ashamed of herself.

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