100 Greatest Songs of the 90’s #98 The Eels – Novocaine For The Soul

Released : 1996

Mark Everett has made a career of finding the cracks between what we would find normal and ekeing out songs from them that have no right to sound as uplifting as they (sometimes) do. To add tragic context, prior to the release of The Eels debut Beautiful Freak he’d recently suffered the deaths of both his father (Heart attack, he discovered the body) and sister (suicide).

That it wasn’t a record filled with crushing existential bleakness and despair was testament to the human spirit not capsizing, but this didn’t mean they were anything like straightforward. Everett fashioned music in a similarly oddball guise as some of the decade’s other emergent alternative American forces – Sparklehorse, Lampchop, The Flaming Lips – but with cleaner, simpler lines, a writer sitting down on the pavement, opening up his guitar case and hoping passers by would throw their neuroses in.

Novocaine For The Soul was Beautiful Freak‘s opening gambit, beginning with a tinny drum as if played by a child and the words “Life is hard/And so am I/You’d better give me/Something so I don’t die”. It scarcely got much warmer than that, but at the same time, radiated a sort of fucked up inner peace which only people who’ve looked over the edge can truly master. The whole brilliant package said that if you couldn’t be happy, you could always still just be.