Great Band, Shit Song #2 : “Baby Genius” by Eels

Electro-shock Blues is not only my favourite Eels album, it is also one of my favourite albums ever. The songs relate E’s experience with the suicide of his sister and the death of his mom from cancer and it came out about the same time I lost my father. The Ledge bought it for me after we heard Steve Lamacq play the closing track, “P.S. You Rock My World,” and I commented on how good Beautiful Freak was and how much I’d enjoyed seeing them on the small stage at Lollapalooza the previous summer.

The album itself is a curious mixture of sadness, anger, resignation and astute observation on the smaller details of illness, depression and coping. At various times you can feel his frustration at being unable to help his mother and his attempts to understand his sister’s action. Ultimately, despite the overwhelmingly depressing subject matter, he manages, in his unique way, to capture both a mood of sorrow and a sensation of hope, as he closes the record with the words:

Laying in bed tonight I was thinking
and listening to all the dogs
and the sirens and the shots
And how a careful man tries to dodge the bullets
While a happy man takes a walk

And maybe it’s time to live

To me it summed up the whole experience of the album. It’s essentially a trek through the stages of grief, from Denial to Acceptance, and with acceptance comes the ability to move on.

Sadly, in the middle of all this is the irritatingly twee piece of drivel that is “Baby Genius.” Sandwiched in between the two gems that are the album’s first single, “Last Stop: This Town” which is about wishing you could fly away with the spirit of a suicide victim and “Climbing To the Moon” which is about a terminal patient accepting his fate and pledging to make the best of the time he has left, there’s this semi-sarcastic, pseudo-lullaby that sounds like it’s a parody on some choral Christmas carol. When I hear it what I hear are the words “baby Jesus,” which may be what was intended, but who knows. Either way it’s not what I want to hear in the middle of a rather sombre and personal record. As far as I can tell, it’s nothing more than a strop about being frustrated with a young smart-ass. Melodically, it does not fit, it’s like a commercial break at the peak of the action, and lyrically it does not fit as it has nothing to do with anything else on the album. It’s not like they needed the filler, the album would be plenty long without it. Moreover, if intended to offer some light relief from the heavy subject-matter, it fails at that as well, since it sounds more like a cry of frustration at goodness knows what put to cheesy kids music box and it is hardly amusing or mood-lightening. Sadly, it’s another one of those songs that leaves me shaking my head and wondering why a band would break the flow on a phenomenal record with toss like “Baby Genius.”

Eels – “Baby Genius”

Eels – “P.S. You Rock My World”

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