Before punk was offered, digested, and popularized in the second half of the 1970s, there was the Electric Eels. This Cleveland proto-punk terror cell operated from 1972 to 1975 and, although they only actually performed live five times, provided a vital link between the MC5s and Stooges that came before all the raucous energy that would follow. They must've turned at least a few heads, because they've now got a 24-song retrospective CD (also available as a 27-song gatefold LP) to accompany an earlier Scat release of Eels material (Those Were Different Times) and a raft of websites recycling stories and minutia about the legendary band. Most flameout punk bands don't get this sort of attention, especially 27 years after disbanding. Legend has it that Stiv Bators picked up his stage mannerisms by aping Eels lead singer Dave McManus. Legend also has it that Eels guitarist John Morton, while being led away in handcuffs after a violence-marred Eels show, booted a cop in the testicles. Naturally, Cleveland's finest responded with decisive force and overwhelming numbers, and Morton played a subsequent Eels show with a wrench taped to his broken left hand that enabled him to play guitar. Material on The Eyeball of Hell comes from recordings made during the waning days of the band's existence, and features a two-guitar assault (no bass) and the drumming of future Cramps pounder Nick Knox. The guitars are on overload and drip with fuzz, but the riffs are much more informed than the typical "three chords and a cloud of fuss" that mark most primordial punk efforts. In fact, brash, ass-kicking aggression aside, the Eels actually aim at arty, free-jazz pretense on some of these tracks, albeit a gutter-level version of it. Singer McManus seems to have created (or at least perfected) the snotty, nasally punk vocal styling that became a mainstay after filtering through more popular acts such as Black Flag. McManus also blows through a clarinet (probably borrowed from his sister) here and there. The disc includes extensive liner notes from band members. In terms of music history, this package isn't exactly the Robert Johnson box set, but it's an interesting document from an age when punk was still incubating. [Scat]
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