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Eels – [Album]

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Tuesday, 24 August 2010

It is said that the night is always darkest before the dawn and, for his band's last two albums, Eels singer/songwriter Mark Oliver Everett has followed that adage to the letter. First, on Hombre Lobo, Everett got excited about love and every aspect of it – the chase or pursuit of it, the promise of it, the desire for it and the acquisition of it – and then the singer dove headlong into love's endgame just a few months later on End Times; alone, the singer contemplated love without his beloved and agonized about the process of starting over.

End Times was a call of desperation and the need for hope in the face of hopelessness which was incredibly captivating but, in order for the story to find resolution, the darkness would have to break; such is an action required for any successful dramatic monologue.

Daybreak for the dark night of Mark Oliver Everett's soul comes, perfectly enough, on Tomorrow Morning. From the delicate but tentative and bright instrumental colors which open “In Gratitude for The Magnificent Day,” listeners will recognize the air of whimsy that permeates the strains and, as strings build in “I'm A Hummingbird,” Everett re-emerges galvanized. Things haven't just snapped back to the way they were before this trilogy began, but there are the beginnings of a warm familiarity here that will make long-time fans smile because they are the sure signifiers of the singer's return to center.

The act of Everett's return on Tomorrow Morning is a gradual and methodical one. This set of songs begins with an almost hymnal quality as the singer's voice filters through “I'm A Hummingbird” and “The Morning.” The motion of those songs seems special because it implies that the singer survived the ordeals of End Times and the singer recognizes that fact (check out lines like “It's anybody's day, it could go any way/why wouldn't you want to make the most of it?” from “The Morning”), so nothing about the record's opening tracks is flashy – it just seems genuine and modest.

While that introduction is certainly the dramatic move that this trilogy needed, both Everett and the Eels have their swing back by the time they reach “Baby Loves Me.” Amid spare, synthetic beats and unheroic instrumentation, Everett rediscovers the small, good things in life and presents them with self-deprecating/effacing humor as he introduces the stable love interest who was there all along but went overlooked through Hombre Lobo and End Times but remained as support for the singer during his tribulations (“Spectacular Girl”). It's a storybook ending right there – everything came together the way it was supposed to – but there's more to the story, because “Spectacular Girl” isn't even the halfway mark in the run-time of Tomorrow Morning.

After the singer realizes where he's standing and his good fortune, much of the rest of Tomorrow Morning plays like an extended love letter extolling his devotion to the girl who hung in there with him. “What I Have To Offer” brushes close to the stance struck on Hombre Lobo, but it's tempered by the knowledge that this relationship is more permanent; as a result, the song omes off as more sweetly romantic than just horny. Not everything about the imagery is rose-colored (grass dies and talk of fairweather friends come up on “Oh So Lovely”), but that it doesn't get presented as such gives listeners the impression that this relationship is more real; not everything is perfect in this narrative world, but it's still pretty fuckin' good – the singer himself asks, “Now how can I tell you how grateful I am?”

Through the rest of the record, Everett picks up the pieces of his shattered ego (check “The Man”) before getting filled up with spirit and tent revival soul in “Looking Up” and coyly admitting that he “Likes The Way This Is Going” as he steps lighter and more warmly than he has in a blessed eternity. With each passing track, the mixes get fuller to illustrate Everett's mending spirit and, while he's not quite there yet by the end, “The Mystery Of Life” is beginning to reach back towards a set of vibes that have gone untouched since Beautiful Freak or Daisies Of The Galaxy.

In that end, those listeners that have been following along for the last year may feel a little spent. The walk through Hombre Lobo, End Times and culminating with Tomorrow Morning was a hard and draining one, but also rewarding – in its' end. Tomorrow Morning is the record that fans needed it to be and that's fine enough, but those fans will still be hungry for more, even in the end; this trilogy was a great story arc that will have listeners hoping for more again soon.

Artist:

www.eelstheband.com/

www.myspace.com/eels

Download:

Eels – “Looking Up” – Tomorrow Morning


Album:

Tomorrow Morning
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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Eels – [Album]

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Saturday, 16 January 2010

How unusual it is for a songwriter to jump from the beginning of a love affair or relationship to the spirit crushing failure and inevitable fallout of it with no notice afforded to or mention of the days of discovery and blissful moments in between. It seems like that would be an important detail wouldn't it? In order to best experience the bitter, shouldn't there be a sampling of the sweet – if only for contrast? Such a jump seems like it would be a reductive countervail under most circumstances, but it is the jump that songwriter Mark Oliver Everett and the Eels have made just six months between the releases of Hombre Lobo and End Times.

The difference between the two albums is complete and noticeable from every angle as one approaches the albums; one sports a bright yellow cover and stark design while the other is presented with a dark blue and caricature illustrations of a figure that it can be presumed is supposed to be Everett. It doesn't get much more different than that.

…And then there's the music.

As it turns out, the music on Hombre Lobo was incredibly jubilant – in contrast to what would follow it. In songs like “Prizefighter,” “Tremendous Dynamite” and “What's A Fella Gotta Do,” Everett kicked up an ecstatic cloud of dust and he posed, postured, hooted and hollered before the object of his affection and, when that didn't win her, he got sweet and bore his soul to her for “In My Dreams” and “The Look You Give That Guy.” Hombre Lobo was an album truly deserving of the subtitle “12 Songs Of Desire.”

End Times represents the anti-thesis of Hombre Lobo. Only six months after the release of its counterpart, End Times actually picks up the story after the breakup – when all the protagonist has left are memories of the good times – but not so long after that the wounds have healed, any of the pieces have been picked up or our hero is feeling even passably whole again. Rather, the emotional center of End Times resides in that point when all the fury, finger-pointing blame and name-calling have been exhausted and all our hero is left with is the resigned reflex (not so much a desire) to carry on. It's softer and more mid-tempo than its counterpart; End Times is defined by a more reflective and introspective air as songs like “The Beginning,” “In My Younger Days” and the title track find Everett painfully introspective on the mic, backed by spare, intimate instrumental assistance. Like any man in the throes of heartache, the album doesn't always stay in that dour place (“Gone Man” strikes the image of our hero getting out to some backwoods honky tonk for some distraction) but never treads far from it and, no matter where the character ventures, the draw back to loneliness, misery and a brand of reflection that borders on self pity is irresistible.

As the album progresses beyond the poignant (for this narrative) spoken word take “Apple Trees,” there is the impression left that a healing process has begun, even if it is tentative. The line, “I'm gonna raise my head/ I may not be in paradise/ but I'm not dead” from “Paradise Blues” is apt; there, the singer concedes that the whole situation sucks, but the notion of continuing on seems less laughable and also implies that the singer is intent on leaving his troubles behind. The results of those endeavors are mixed, of course – the mania of "Unhinged” sets a striking contrast against the church bells, rain and raging pathetic fallacy of “High And Lonesome” and against the plea for maternal care and understanding in “I Need A Mother” – but the psychological turmoil is beginning to fade and the songs are coming back to the Eels' center. That return is complete by “Little Bird,” which features familiar lyrical colors and sonic motifs and, by “On My Feet,” the character is very literally so; he is not as good as new – as with all of Everett's characters, there's still an irreparable fracture in him – but he's on his way to normal. That's reassuring somehow.

So, for whatever it's worth, yes End Times is an odd release to follow a blustering album brimming with boasts like Hombre Lobo, but it does fit an abbreviated continuity, does present a story arc (even if it is a curve back to center) and does leave listeners eager to find out what's next. The Hombre Lobo/End Times saga of love discovered and love lost has been endured, which leaves the field wide open for the Eels to go freely and easily in any direction that moves them next time around.

Artist:

www.eelstheband.com/

www.myspace.com/eels

Download:

Eels – “Little Bird” – End Times


Album:

End Times is released on January 19, 2009. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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Eels – [Album]

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Wednesday, 06 February 2008

Listening to any Eels record feels like going for a cup of coffee with the friend you’ve got that always makes you laugh because they’re remarkably bitter and cynical. While they have the ability to make light about those things when they’re in your company, you know that those are also the things that they agonize over in private and keep them up at night. You, for your part, laugh too at the time—but when that friend isn’t in your company, you worry about them because you know how thin that veil is even if it remains unspoken between you. That conceptual façade has always been the dominating theme on Eels albums and invariably, at some point during the proceedings, the veil falls and audiences feel as if they’ve been allowed into the inner circle of singer Mark Oliver Everett’s mental workings. It’s a simple thing and a methodology that Everett has used since 1996 on Eels’ debut Beautiful Freak, but also a very romantic and effective one.

Because of the fact that Essential Eels culls the best moments from the band’s six studio albums along with a track from the Town Hall live disc, an out-of-left-field cover (of Missy Elliot’s “Get Ur Freak On”) as well as an additional unreleased track, the album builds in a similar thematic progression with established songs—creating something akin to the ultimate Eels album. Granted, Essential Eels is a retrospective compilation, and drawing inferences that it might be the band’s crowning achievement seems like a stretch at best and calls into question the validity of the Eels as a creative entity at worst—but it’s difficult to argue with a succession of incredible songs like “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues," “It’s A Motherfucker," “Souljacker” and “That’s Not Really Funny” that, in spite of each being from different sources, build thematically; they just happen to use the best possible materials to do so. It’s actually kind of astounding that the songs fit together as well as they do.

The DVD disc compiles most of the videos that the Eels have made (for whatever reason, the video for “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues” is absent) since 1996. In this case, the ties that bind are a little looser—more often characterized by many of the visual clichés of the moment (floating musicians, multi-jump cuts, fisheye lenses to create penetrating gazes et cetera), the videos often wear their time stamp clearly but, even so, it makes for a great addition to the set for the sake of prosperity.

Overall, Meet The Eels is a great comp in that it honestly does live up to its title of being essential. The tracks come together here and display a running continuity that one would hope to find in a body of work; it’s consistent without sounding same-y and progresses in a linear fashion rather than the mixed bag affair that usually hobbles best-of comps. Essential Eels is a great way to get acquainted with the band and wet your appetite.

For more information visit www.eelstheband.com or myspace.com/eels

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