Recordings

5. The best moments here, like "Not Guilty," the "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" demo and the a cappella "Because," have already been widely bootlegged, so diehards are left to be delighted with the in-between-song cut-ups and slight variations on John and Paul's peerless vocals.

6. One leaves Anthology 3 with sad feelings. Not so much because four friends part company here (history tells us that the tarnished relationships were mended) as because the Beatles would not be there to save each other from artistic missteps like John's Some Time in New York City or Paul's Wild Life albums. No longer four Supermen, the solo Beatles entered a world where Kryptonite was king, and they became vulnerable. But who can begrudge their wanting to be human?

--Serene Dominic

eels
Beautiful Freak
(Dreamworks)

It doesn't take eels singer/songwriter E long to find the heart of the matter. He opens Beautiful Freak with this bruising question: "Rags to rags and rust to rust/How do you stand when you get crushed?" For E and his two bandmates, the answer comes in the form of this hauntingly gorgeous debut, 44 minutes of hip-hop beats, soul-pop song lines and fuzzbox production that calls to mind fellow hipsters Soul Coughing and Beck. Not surprisingly, Michael Simpson (one-half of the Dust Brothers recording team that's manned the boards for Beck and the Beastie Boys) shares production credits with E.

This disc's most ambitious songs present themselves as sonic collages composed of dreamy lyrics, chunky guitar, looped samples and loping drum beats. "Novocaine for the Soul" opens with the gentle tinkling of a Wurlitzer before E lowers the boom with a crunching guitar solo. Bassist Tommy Walter opens "Susan's House" with a thick, thumping bass line; drummer Butch Norton adds a jazzy, syncopated rhythm; and E finally kicks in with a tripped-out urban travelogue that reads like top-drawer acid poetry. Then the song gets really weird. It stops on a dime, falls silent, and is reborn as a sweet Randy Newmanesque piano interlude. Gradually, the drums and guitars start back up, this time with samples of kids cheering, canned sitcom laughter and roaring power tools.

The title track, a dark lullaby fashioned from E's gentle keyboard fills and edgy tenor, is the trio's most revealing. "You're a beautiful freak," he sings, "and that is why I love you." Take heart, then, freaks: With bands like the eels around to advocate, the freakhouse can be a pretty chill place to hang.

--Steven Almond

The Drag
Satellites Beaming Back at You
(Island)

On this full-throttle, space-obsessed debut's epic centerpiece, "Fountainbleu," Drag front man Chance pleads "Hold on tightly!/Hold on tightly!/Around me!/Around me!" as if both parties to the embrace are doomed to drift through cold, endless space. If this exhortation sounds like a reprise of Ziggy Stardust's desperate "gimme your hands 'cause you're wonderful" cry, consider the eerie Jagger routine Chance pulls during the Drag's live shows. Surely, Chance clocked hundreds of hours studying video tapes of Gimme Shelter to learn Jagger's shuffle steps so flawlessly. His scowling vocals on tracks like "Superstar" and "Die a Little" might also remind you of Liam Gallagher, but the Drag's four instrumentalists are far more compelling than Oasis' boneheaded sidemen. Rather than just parrot British rock touchstones, the Drag throw in sonic splashes ranging from Hawkwind to the Left Banke to Echo and the Bunnymen. Like his early work with R.E.M., producer Mitch Easter buries enough subliminal harmonies and cellos down in the mix that it could be weeks before you find them all.

--Serene Dominic
The Drag is scheduled to perform on Friday, December 6, at Gibson's in Tempe, with the Ocean Blue, and Love Nut. Showtime is 8 p.m.

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