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TERRY GROSS, host:

"Hombre Lobo" is the first studio album in five years by the band known as Eels. The man behind the band is Mark Oliver Everett, better known to his fans as E. Along with two other musicians, E turns "Hombre Lobo" into what he calls "12 Songs of Desire." Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review.

(Soundbite of music)

KEN TUCKER: With his long beard, fuzzy blues-rock guitars and a trio band, Mark Oliver Everett and Eels could remind you a little of ZZ Top. But pretty soon after diving into "Hombre Lobo," you realize that this music is less "Tres Hombres" and wolfish than it is sotto voce and melancholy.

(Soundbite of song, "In My Dreams")

Mr. MARK OLIVER EVERETT (Lead Singer, Eels): (Singing) My love is always just as she seems. A force of nature all her own to be reckoned with. Whatever's wrong with me, her kiss redeems. And it's all there in my dreams, in my dreams.

TUCKER: Mark Oliver Everett, known as E, makes good on the subtitle of his album, which is "12 Songs of Desire." Again and again, whether he sings in a growl meant to be heard over loud guitars or a high-tenor croon with more gently-strummed instruments, E is a sensitive soul, unafraid to sound yearning or needy, or in this case, whining and jealous.

(Soundbite of song, "That Look You Give That Guy")

Mr. EVERETT: (Singing) I never thought that I could be so bold, to even say these thoughts aloud. I see you with your man. Your eyes just shine. While he stands tall and walking proud. That look you give that guy I wanna see, looking right at me. If I could be that guy instead of me, I'd never let you down. It always seems like you're going somewhere.

TUCKER: Between the release of this album and his last one, E made a documentary about his life with his father, the quantum physicist Hugh Everett III. It was called "Parallel World, Parallel Lives," and it was a portrait of how to come to terms with a brilliant, rather distant father and that old pattern of opting to do something in life that's as far from what your parents does - to either rebel or simply to establish one's own identity. The documentary was like much of E's music: meticulous, intelligent and self-consciously chilly.

It ended up proving that father and son were more alike than not. Although I doubt the quantum physicist would accidentally hop on the "Twilight"-"True Blood" bandwagon with a song about needing fresh blood.

(Soundbite of song, "Fresh Blood")

Mr. EVERETT: (Singing) Sun down on the sorry day. By nightlights, the children pray. I know you're probably getting ready for bed. Beautiful woman, get out of my head. I'm so tired of the same old crud. Sweet baby, I need fresh blood. Whoo!

TUCKER: I like "Hombre Lobo" most when E is expressing his desire in its most forceful form. For me, the high point is the song "Prizefighter," which uses the metaphor of a man who'll battle for the affection of the woman he wants. It's the hombre at his lobo-iest.

(Soundbite of song, "Prizefighter")

Mr. EVERETT: (Singing) Well if you need me, I'm right here. No matter what, I'm always near. Yeah, I've been through a lot and you can't scare me. Now go on baby, if you just dare me. I'll break through any wall. Just give me a call. I'm a dynamiter. I'm a prizefighter. Well, if you get sad, I'm your friend. I got an ear I'll always lend. You know that you can always talk to me. Now come on baby, take a walk with me. Tell me all. Tell daddy all. Just give me a call. I'm a go-all-nighter. I'm a prizefighter. Whoo!

TUCKER: I'm a go-all-nighter. I'm a prizefighter. I love that line. In general, "Hombre Lobo" is an uneven piece of work because it sounds like a transitional album for this musician. He's moving into the middle period of his career, and middle age. He can still tap into the sort of romantic insecurity and anguish that rock n' roll used to encourage as a music of adolescence. But we're long past that period of popular music, with senior citizens now making rock music as vehement as anything a teenager can muster. For E, for Mark Oliver Everett, this means ongoing worlds of discovery, worlds that he doesn't even need a full moon or a transformation into a wolf-man to explore.

GROSS: Ken Tucker is editor-at-large for Entertainment Weekly. He reviewed "Hombre Lobo" by the band, Eels. You can download podcasts of our show on our Web site, freshair.npr.org.

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