Friday, December 4, 2009

Case File #6: "Things the Grandchildren Should Know"

"Things the Grandchildren 

Should Know"
Blinking Lights and Other Revelations

The need to know: After finding modest mainstream success with 1996's Beautiful Freak, Eels receded to the underground ranks, crafting unabashedly honest, explorative albums that have only gotten better with time. One of those bands most people have no doubt heard without actually having heard of, Eels have always hovered just under the proverbial radar, lending tunes to soundtracks as varied as Scream2, Shrek, Knocked Up and over 25 more. The band's penchant for tongue-in-cheek sarcasm even drew the misplaced ire of the Bush administration with 2000's Daisies of the Galaxy album for its innocuous storybook-style cover and the politician's misunderstanding of the albums lyrics. One of indie rock--and, indeed, all of music's--most intriguing personalities, Mark Everett (aka E) penned a tome of memoirs telling his strange, unrockstar life in 2008, also titled Things the Grandchildren Should Know.

Why it's worthy: Nobody mixes heartbreak with optimism like E. And nowhere does he do it better than here. The closing track to his semi-autobiographical two-disc epic Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, "Things the Grandchildren Should Know" is both E's love letter to life and his legacy. No stranger to writing about his life ("Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor" from Electro-Shock Blues is notoriously about his sister's failed suicide attempt), this song is more a confession than a retelling. He lays bare his coming to terms with who he is, his final understanding of and love for his detached father, and his struggles to connect with the world outside his own head. For a songwriter never afraid to be unflinchingly honest, "Things the Grandchildren Should Know" puts E out on a wire with no safety net, which makes this album's final revelation feel like finally meeting the man we only thought we knew.

Quotable lyric: "I knew true love and I knew passion/ And the difference between the two/ I have some regrets but if I had to do it all again/ Well, it's something I'd like to do"

Where you've heard it: Although this particular song wasn't included, the bulk of Blinking Lights was commandeered for the score to 2008's Jim Carrey/Zooey Deshanel comedy Yes Man.

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