They say that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but Eels, the band based around songwriting guru Mark Everett, have a reputation for reinvention. From their intense early beginnings, through heart-rending balladry and slack pop-rock, Everett's songwriting aptitude - channelling his personal traumas into music that's occasionally poignant and affecting - has both polarised and galvanised music fans over the years.
'Hombre Lobo', their first studio outing since 2005 and the Spanish translation of 'werewolf', falls somewhere between a growl and a yelp. Its sub-title '12 Songs of Desire' - "That dreadful, intense want that gets you into all sorts of situations that can change your life in big ways," according to Everett - certainly has a bearing on the album's sound, as most of these songs are based around love and lust in some way, whether it's with a line like "Whatever's wrong with me, her kiss redeems" or "Every day I wake up and wonder why I'm alone / When I know I'm a lovely guy".
Musically, 'Hombre Lobo' kicks off with the muffled rock 'n' roll of 'Prizefighter' and 'Tremendous Dynamite', before ambling into quietly upbeat pop-rock territory. The spinning-top optimism of 'Lilac Breeze' is a winner, while the easygoing rattle of 'In My Dreams', 'My Timing Is Off' and 'Beginner's Luck' plough the same sluggish furrow as some of Beck's material. For an album named after a bloodthirsty hound, however, it's apt that the standout track should be the ferocious 'Fresh Blood', on which Everett howls over a contemporary arrangement with more than a slight air of menace. 'Hombre Lobo' isn't the best album that Eels will ever release, but it's consistently likeable and agreeable return.