(Independent Release) To properly enjoy Golden Eels’ debut album, one must first chill. Discard all notions of rock and roll as radical force or personal savior, and sit back and admire Periscopes in the Air as the goofy, light-hearted affair it is.
Sure, there’s plenty of power-pop riffage and catchy, quirky melody (see especially “Deep End,” a very Bachman-Turner Overdrive rocker). But frontman Neil Golden, with his wit and laconic drawl, downplays the music’s passion. His nonchalance works on the suitably Pavement-y “Real Y’Know” and the Badfinger balladry of “Fools.” On quieter tracks, like the spare ”Stay In Touch” the chummy “Jezebel” or the slightly off-kilter ELO-ish “Vortex,” the emotion seems forced, as if it’s all just a gag.
Golden’s at his best on “Human Heart Attack,” a twangy, downbeat tune that’s the longest and loveliest on the album. Somehow, Golden can sing something as preposterously downcast as “I was evicted from the human race today” and still sound like he just needs a good pat on the back. Ultimately, that is the Eels’ charm: Maybe Periscopes is all a big joke, but Golden’s laughing mainly at himself.