"You little punks think you own this town," E spits scornfully just minutes into "Dog Faced Boy," the murky, sludge-wallowing opening track of the Eels' latest disc. The bemused annoyance that colored 2000's Daisies of the Galaxy seems to have festered into full-blown anger, with cohorts John Parish and Koool G Murder enhancing E's sour flavor. At the same time, the bright spots shine even brighter: "Fresh Feeling," a strings-swathed ditty about the first pangs of love, doesn't even have a downside. It's an actual heartfelt sentiment, a rare offering from one of the kings of passive-aggressive songwriting.

Musically, the Eels fuzz out the guitars way past the ugly mark, rocking with unfamiliar vigor. Just about every song is also permeated by dark clouds of darker whimsy, like the lounge-tastic horns that sound off during "That's Not Really Funny." Such flourishes mirror E's grudging optimism -- even in a "World of Shit," he finds a lady who makes life worthwhile. Ultimately, E continually reminds, today's a wash, but there's always tomorrow.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Robert Bishop