EELS, SOULJACKER, 2001
Looking over what ended up on the pod, it turns out that I'm a big Eels fan. It snuck up on me; I didn't fall in love with Electro-Shock Blues when I first heard it, though many friends whose taste I admire pointed me to it, and I might have missed the band altogether if not for my friend and poet Jason Tandon. We were in grad school in Oxford together in the summer of 2000, and he went to see Eels and came back raving. I borrowed his copy of Daisies Of The Galaxy. It was a hit and miss listen for me at first; I loved some songs, but I was turned off by the music hall theatricality of some tunes. Then I got a copy of the live show from the Electro-Shock Blues tour that the band (or Mark "E" Everett) put out on his website, and I loved it-- it was a trio show, raw and totally engaging. I went back to Daisies, and got hooked, and eventually went through the whole catalog. These days, five Eels albums get a thumbs up from me. I wouldn't start with Souljacker, but it's a solid, compact listen, and this song gets me every time.
Zora Neale Hurston starts Their Eyes Were Watching God with a summary of the differences between men and women: "Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.
"Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly."
To me, Woman Driving, Man Sleeping has the same feel. The verses concern the woman, who is "looking straight ahead" with "no radio to play." The map is "crumpled on her lap" while she searches for "toll money to pay." She is "passing all the other cars" and "never turning to look back." She's alone in the car even though she's not-- the drive is on her, and they're going wherever she takes them. The drive is the truth-- she is just a "little metal box under the stars." The small, insignificant space is still hers, and so she's doing with it what she can. In contrast, all the choruses are the man and his "dream": he is "in a large apartment house / walking and knocking on doors." I love the enigmatic nature of his dream-- is he the landlord collecting rent? Is he the gregarious neighbor bringing everyone together? Is he cheating? Is it just a random dream with no significance? Either way, it's a great song about being together but not being together. I can remember many late night drives with women in which we were both there, but there was no connection. Who hasn't been on a late night drive and been thinking, "This might be over"? If so, this song is for you.