From the appealing modern rock of Beautiful Freak (with the hit "Novocaine for the Soul") to the unsettling bittersweet melodies of Electro-Shock Blues and the loopy bounce of Daisies of the Galaxy, the man called E and his Eels co-conspirators have thrown curve balls with each new release. Souljacker is no exception: It rocks, it rolls, and then it rocks some more. "Dog Faced Boy" jump-starts the album with a dark, rumbling guitar line and E's voice rasping, "You little punks think you own this town." It's a challenge to all comers: The Eels are back and they're bad. Given the band's occasional penchant for cute quirkiness, it's a surprise that this rock move is totally convincing. But with help from UK producer John Parish (who's worked with PJ Harvey), E takes rock 'n' roll traditions and turns them inside out and upside down. The Bo Diddley beat that anchors "Jungle Telegraph" gets interrupted by a crazy horn break, and the song's typically oddball first line is "Mama had an epidural/ Hoping I would be a girl." "Souljacker Part 1" begins with "Twenty-two miles of hard road" like some old blues boogie but ramps up into bracing rock 'n' roll. While the rockers dominate, Souljacker still makes time for acoustic ballads ("Woman Driving, Man Sleeping"), impossibly catchy trip-hop ("Fresh Feeling"), and E's patented beat-driven singsong melodies ("Friendly Ghost"). Once again, Eels take a surprising left turn without traveling in circles.
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