But with each album since, E has worked overtime to avoid grunge-hit-wonder potholes and follow his own peculiar path. ''Electro-Shock Blues'' (1998) was a clanking, tormented concept work about death and illness in E's family, and Daisies of the Galaxy takes another idiosyncratic left turn.
A bit more sun-drenched than its predecessor, ''Daisies'' finds E giving himself over to his inner loner -- the freak at peace with his distance from the world around him. He may be forlorn in a breakup song, ''It's a Motherf---er,'' yet admits in ''I Like Birds'' that he'd rather spend time with feathery friends than people anyway.
Ignoring the slightest whiff of trendiness, E sets these ruminations to shuffling mini-symphonies built on old-school instrumentation like electric pianos, organs, strings, marching-band brass, and banjo. The results are genuinely sublime pop like ''Jeannie's Diary,'' in which fulfillment would mean being a lengthy entry in a crush's journal, and ''Selective Memory,'' about fading images of his mother, whose imminent death was a subject of ''Electro-Shock Blues.''
For all his sentimentality, E rarely devolves into mawkishness. His slow, parched crawl of a voice ensures it, as does a dark sense of humor that, fittingly, owes more to Randy Newman than Eminem. ''Mr. E's Beautiful Blues,'' the first single, bounces and grinds along in an approximation of happiness -- until you detect the references to suicidal girls and smog-clotted skies and realize the chorus (''Goddamn right, it's a beautiful day'') is sarcastic. Naturally, the title is not found anywhere in the album's packaging. It's called an unlisted bonus track, and rock eccentrics like E wouldn't have it any other way.