EV is mostly just a bunch of slightly quirky rock songs, but the arrangements always have a bunch of layers and little twists to keep things interesting.
My main criticism is I *do* think the album fizzles out a bit. River In The Road sounds like the outro to a more epic song, but it doesn't really do much of anything on its own. And Run Pig Run is barely a song.
It's baffling to me that the title track didn't make the album because it would easily have been one of the better tracks on it. The synth intro to 3s and 7s even references it!
"the only consistent line in the reviews was that people missed Nick Oliveri at the time"
I definitely remember this and, I guess like most people at the time, I was also judging everything they did in the context of the band having Oliveri, Lannegan and Grohl in the lineup not that long earlier. Plus they were getting increasingly less heavy.
I feel like at this point people either dropped them for good after Songs For The Deaf or fully accepted what they turned into. Those guys were only really on two of their albums, and counting Them Crooked Vultures we're now on the sixth album that's mostly Homme. So something like EV doesn't stand out as all that different to the kind of things they've been doing for almost 20 years now.