Friday, 13 June 2014

Album review: EELS - The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett

Highlights: Parallels, Where I’m From, Mistakes Of My Youth


How do you write about Eels in 2014? What exactly can you say about Mark Everett’s new songs that you haven’t said about his old ones? And what does this new album have to tell you? The fact that he can still write a bunch of good songs in that gruff-pretty style of his? The fact that in a year or two you will be craving for more?..

I don’t know. Throughout the years I’ve realised that I may well be happy with my trusted copy of Daisies Of The Galaxy. An album which, all things considered, remains the ultimate Eels experience.

Adorable piano, tasteful orchestration, gorgeous guitar tones, tragic lyricism, husky vocals. This time, though, it is dead earnest: the cover art shows Mr. Everett as a hip composer; Mark’s middle name makes its solemn appearance; these are tales, not songs; the whole concept of Eels performing Mark Everett’s music.

But since it’s all about songs, let’s talk about songs. The songs are good in the usual, safe way. Which means that if you can’t find beauty in the disarming simplicity of “Agatha Chang”, you stand no chance with Eels. Still, we have heard better, and thankfully the album does have glimpses of Everett’s spark. “Parallels” has that extra dimension that makes it a modest Eels classic. “Where I’m From” is pleasingly country-ish and upbeat. “Mistakes Of My Youth” has an understated anthemic quality to it that is very endearing. “Kindred Spirit” is prettier than others. But then again – the guitar underpinning “A Swallow In The Sun” may be one of the loveliest things you will hear all year, but the melody never sounds especially convincing. This is Mark’s general problem at this point, even if he remains a masterful songwriter-in-style. 

What I want to say is that if you’re not a fan, you have every right to feel exhausted. If you are a fan, The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett is pretty much your favourite album of the year. It’s simple. Personally, I’d love to love it more, but I’m afraid I’ve had my Eels days. Will they come back? They might, but that is not something you should be looking forward to. 

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