Eels Meet the Eels / Useless Trinkets

Eels Meet the Eels / Useless Trinkets
Mark Oliver Everett (aka E) has always been a curiosity due to his ability to survive without any real place in music’s inhospitable climate for an artist with such idiosyncrasies. Debuting in the late ’90s alt-rock boom with their biggest hit to date, "Novocaine For the Soul,” Eels — or Everett and a revolving cast of musicians — appeared almost out of thin air with novelty bankability. But under the surface of Everett’s uncanny presentation, devoted fans quickly discovered songs that were beautiful and ugly, deeply pained and just outright nuts. These two collections gather the "essential” and rare moments of the one-man band’s ten-year recording output to an extent that becomes overwhelming towards the end. Meet the Eels covers the highlights of each of his six albums, acting like a singles collection that becomes less and less familiar as the CD runs on. Tracks like "Last Stop: This Town,” "Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues” and "Hey Man (Now You’re Really Living)” exemplify the potential for commercial success that Eels’ so often missed. And hey, as batty as it is, even the cover of Missy’s "Get UR Freak On” is worth a few spins for its absolute lack of restraint. Useless Trinkets, on the other hand, is a generous three-disc set that gathers just about everything — live and unreleased cuts, remixes, alternate versions and a couple of Christmas songs, including the great "Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas” — for the obsessive Eels fan. There are a few standouts, like the soothingly string-laden "Taking A Bath in Rust,” but an "excessive attic purge” is the best way to describe this. Even with its 24-song body, Meet the Eels is an enjoyable comp, but E’s at his best when you sit and listen to his work as a whole, especially 1998’s heartbreaking opus Electro-Shock Blues. (Geffen)