MC Honky: I am the Messiah

BY SCOTT SERILLA

Published June 1, 2003

Mark Everett better known E. of the Eels, probably wouldn't mind if you referred to him as an eccentric. His band's unique wry, bittersweet introspections often draw the catch-all label of 'quirky' in reviews like this.

So E. has taken the title as a badge of honor and runs with it with his new side project, MC Honky, a collection of playful sonic collages which E. attributes alter-ego Honky, a retired pottery tycoon putting out "self-help rock" to aid those in the kind of pain that the Eels usually fixate on during their records.

Messiah transcends its own tongue-in-check premise and smartly bucks the usual creative and topic expectations of an Eels record, as well as commercial ones by being released on indie Spin Arts rather than DreamWorks, the Eels usual home.

The record's witty recycling experiments suggest a cleaned-up Mellow Gold-era Beck (see "3 Turntables & 2 Microphone for further prove), while the borrowed beats and hook-laden organ line of single "Sonnet No. 3 (Like a Duck)" recalls the best parts of Medeski, Martin & Wood's collaborations with DJ Logic. The eclectic mix of MC Honky trash picking ranges from Las Vegas lounge horns to Tin Pan crooner to comically whining answering machine message to angelic chorus, which all more or less blend into a coherent whole, always skipping one step ahead of annoying art project.

Maybe in a better world, MC Honky would get his implicit desire to have a shot at scaling the Billboard Hot 100, playing in the background as both old and young more cheerfully shopped for fuel efficient SUVs and identical futuristic silver suits made of space-age materials. Maybe world hunger, AIDs and Vin Diesel would all come crashing down if we all listen to this album and tapped our toes. Maybe...

Rating: 4 stars.