DreamWorks – 2001 – 40 minutes

When Eels first surfaced with incendiary single 'Novocaine for the Soul', they sounded as if they had just missed the boat. Despite its captivating brilliance, the single and subsequent album were released just as grunge was falling apart at the seams and many quickly wrote them off as post-Seattle also-rans.

Nowadays, American angst is back in vogue, Mercury Rev and Sparklehorse are the kings of alt-rock, so the timing couldn't be better for Eels frontman E to make a triumphant comeback.

'Souljacker', the band's fourth album, is an enthralling showcase of E's song-writing skills, with a minimum of fussy instrumentation and production trickery. Much has been made of E's tragic personal life, and the exorcism continues on 'Souljacker'. But as the man himself points out on the sleevenotes – "I just like to rock". He does it with gusto on 'That's Not Really Funny' and the psychotic 'Souljacker part 1'.

Eels can do the loud thing well, but this album only reaches its creative heights on the less frenetic cuts. 'Friendly Ghost', 'Bus Stop Boxer' and 'Woman Driving, Man Sleeping' are beautiful, simple melodies with low-key, settling lyrics, and you will not hear better songs anywhere this year.

E's voice is still eerily familiar, midway between Cobain and Hansen, and he treads into Kurt territory when he pens a tender paean to the love of his life. The title? 'World of Sh*t'.

With Mercury Rev stumbling, and Mark Linkous writing barely three proper songs per album, the title of undisputed alt-rock heavyweights is up for grabs. My money is on Eels.

Luke McManus

Tracklisting: Dogfaced Boy - That's not really funny - Fresh feeling - Woman driving, man sleeping - Souljacker part 1 - Friendly ghost - Teenage witch - Bus stop boxer - Jungle telegraph - World of sh*t - Souljacker part 2 - What is this note