Four years ago, Eels frontman and songwriter E penned a collection of intimate, often gentle, and very revealing songs called Blinking Lights and Other Revelations. It reflected songs of personal experience and the human spirit. But E, aka Mark Oliver Everett, never seems to look at things the same way twice. In many ways, Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire is the mirror image of that album. And, as Everett himself claims, this one is more about animal instinct. That's fair enough as far as it goes, but this recording, while reflecting a more primal side of human experience as it engages the primacy of desire, actually recalls -- and feels like an extension of -- the song "Dog Faced Boy" from Souljacker. That kid, caught in his loneliness because of his difference, seems to be speaking -- albeit as a grownup -- through many of the songs here. His difference is both his gift and his curse and he understands both sides. He's finding his loneliness to be both the bane of his existence and his strength to survive and succeed in finding love no matter what. His protagonist, through thoroughly human, is still regarded as an animal because of his hirsute appearance, and he deals with that in these 12 songs with tenderness, rage, and reckless abandon. The sound of the album seems divided in two, the brazenly rockist set betraying the side of animal instinct in all its guises, from anger to wanton lust, desperation, and swaggering self-confidence, with E using resolute raw, distorted roots rock ("Prizefighter"); piledriving, careening garage rock ("Liliac Breeze"and "What's a Fella Gotta Do"); howling raucous blues ("Tremendous Dynamite"); and the brilliant boasting pomposity portrayed by distorted pop/rock ("Beginner's Luck").
Then there's the other half, meant to portray the very human face of the ache that desire causes. These nakedly sensitive, embarrassingly frank ballads literally pour tenderness and reveal the other side of "Prizefighter." They begin with the self-explanatory wish revealed in the simple four-chord "That Look You Give That Guy" and continue with the lilting "In My Dreams"; the somber, minor-key waltz called "The Longing"; the midtempo pop disappointment that is "My Timing Is Off" (perhaps the finest song on the record); and the resolute truth and acceptance in "Ordinary Man," where he speaks to the absent object of his desire and gives her the benefit of the doubt that on "Another warm day, in the city of cold hearts.../You, you're not like that.../And you seem like you could appreciate the fact/That I'm no ordinary man." Ultimately there's the thread of hope, because the instinct of desire brings it to us in so many different ways, and E understands this better than most. This is a beautifully crafted, stripped-down recording, showcasing once more that E uses searing honesty and a canny sense of pop, rock, blues, and everything else to chronicle his own strange path through life and its labyrinth -- he combines them all with an endearing craziness that most of us feel every day, but dare not speak of. He may be a loopy poet and songwriter, but here, as is his norm, he's spot-on and a joy to listen to.