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Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment

E of the eels finally departs from the graveyard

He continues: "The thing is, I get inspired by certain things in my life. Like in the case of electro-shock blues, I get inspired by these things, and some of the songs directly deal with those things in plain language, where it's all out there." He pauses for a moment. "But if I want to write a tribute to someone, I write it in their voice, rather than have it be about them. I write in the first person, because I think that's the best way to pay tribute to someone: to try and really understand them and what it's like to be them. There's a song on the new record, 'I Like Birds,' which for me is a tribute to my mother, but no one would ever know that if I didn't tell you that. It's much more meaningful that it's something she would say, rather than me singing a song, 'Oh, my dead mama, I miss you,' or whatever. We don't need any more of that.

"The new record came really natural to me, because of what was going on in my life. I'd felt like I hadn't been to a funeral for a while" -- he laughs -- "and I moved into a different house, and I felt like, 'Okay, it's a new beginning, and it's time to put all that behind me for now.' It felt like today was the first day of the rest of my life, and that was reflected in the songs I was writing."

Everett, in trying to pitch his new record, still can't stop talking about his last one. But there is a good reason: Daisies of the Galaxy is a sequel to electro-shock blues; it's the album on which Everett is, well, born again, picking up where its predecessor left off. electro-shock blues ended with Everett moaning, "I don't know where we're going/I don't know what we'll do," before he finally exhaled his last gasp: "And maybe it's time to live." Daisies begins with the fading echoes of a funeral: The opening strains of "Grace Kelly Blues" sound not too unlike the introduction to Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927," horns moaning and drums rat-a-tat-tatting. From there Everett goes on to sing of how he needs "a broom to sweep up all the troubles you and I have seen"; how he hopes to "never [make] another sound of fear"; how a handful of daisies can cheer you up; and how "it's a motherfucker being here without you" (that song is an homage to Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going to Rain Today"). He writes songs to his mother as his mother, and he writes of how, when he grows up, "I'll be an angry little whore/I'll give you all the finger/I'll sell you all what for." He then concludes by insisting that "Something Is Sacred." (The final song on the disc actually is a hidden track, "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues," which is being released as the album's single. Everett didn't think it fit with the rest of the disc, though DreamWorks insisted it remain somewhere on Daisies.)

Everett points to "Sacred" as perhaps the album's most meaningful song. After all, a young man who has survived his parents might be tempted to think nothing is sacred, that everything around him is "shit and piss" (to quote from electro-shock blues). But the survivor knows better.

"[DreamWorks boss] Lenny Waronker calls Daisies 'a wonderful walk in the park, where you're occasionally stung by a bee and bitten by a snake,' which I think sums it up pretty well," Everett says, laughing slightly. "To me it's just about life. It's the sequel to electro-shock blues, but it's about the living, where electro-shock blues was about the dying part of living. If there's one thing in there that might be the point -- and I might be wrong about this -- but there's a song on there toward the end called 'Something Is Sacred' that's basically about the times we live in and how nobody cares about anything. It's saying you have to believe in something. We live in the nothing-is-sacred society, and I'm the king of it; nothing is sacred as far as my sense of humor goes. But deep down you've got to care about some things and hold some things sacred. Once everything truly is not sacred, then we're fucked."

In his 1975 book Mystery Train, critic Greil Marcus, when describing the work of Everett's role model Randy Newman, wrote of how rock and roll was in the midst of a confessional crisis; 25 years later his words still resonate. "Truth-telling is beginning to settle into a slough where it is nothing more than a pedestrian autobiography set to placid music framed by a sad smile on an album cover," Marcus wrote. "This is about as liberating as thinking typecast movie stars are 'really like' the roles they play." Everett could well have fallen victim to this type of thinking: It's not necessary to know his story to appreciate his work -- indeed, loss is the most universal of subjects -- but it certainly helps. Everett once thought of keeping the personal stuff very private. He, like Dave Eggers, is media literate enough to know confessions very often ring hollow and phony and desperate. But he can't stop himself, so he keeps on writing about life and death and life after death. For himself, yeah -- and for anyone interested in hopping a ride to the cemetery.

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