End of the Eels

At the loft, recording on May 25, 1975. Brian McMahon, Dave, Nick Knox.

McMahon returned to the fold late in the winter of 1975. The Eels rehearsed rigorously and recorded frequently through the spring and summer. This period of high activity is the sole focus of the eyeball of hell. Their final show was September 20, 1975 at WRUW on the campus of Case Western Reserve University and the group disbanded afterwards. It is my understanding that a recording was made by the station, but erased years later when someone on the staff needed a reel of tape and didn't know any better. I personally never went to any lengths to uncover the hows and whys of the Eels' demise, but if there was ever a band that truly experienced so-called "personality conflicts," it was the Eels.


"Agitated" b/w "Cyclotron"

In 1978, Rough Trade released the Agitated 45 (RT 8). John Morton illustrated the cover and wrote the titles in a faux German style, which was taken at face value by many who initially bought it, exactly the sort of confusion and ambiguity to which the Eels aspired. Between the sounds, still extreme by 1978 standards, and the gradual realization that "Die Electric Eels" were actually a crazy band from Cleveland that had broken up three years earlier made it that much more impressive.

Another Eels 45, "Bunnies," turned up on Marotta's Mustard label 1982, presenting a completely opposite face of the group to confuse the issue yet more. More Eels recordings leaked out over the coming years on LP and CD, though none are currently in print, excepting the aforementioned TWDT.

An observation
The Eels' nihilism naturally overshadows their seriousness and work ethic; a natural consequence when you apply that work ethic to fucking shit up. That their world-view and much of their music anticipates the later punk movement is significant, but to think of the group as simply a quirk in the space-time continuum is a mistake. They toyed with free jazz, played the anti-Eels in "Bunnies," and did unexpected but totally relevant covers (there *is* a Dead Man's Curve in Cleveland). But in particular note the eloquence of some of McManus' songs, especially Natural Situation, Silver Daggers and Sewercide. Natural Situation visits a recurring hospital theme, in this case a cancer patient who personifies, and is observed by, the singer. It seems to me these songs address existential crisis in a very fundamental, real way without a whiff of posturing or self-pity. How many rock songs can you say that about? McManus retired from music in the early 1980s, returned to the Catholic religion of his youth and formally disowned the music he had made.

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