[pullquote1 quotes=”true” align=”center”]Eels embodies optimism while foraying into deeper, darker emotions[/pullquote1]
As its title appropriately suggests, the latest album from Mark Oliver Everett, aka E, has strayed from his typical melancholic groove and adopted a more optimistic one, which might be even better described as forced boorishness. The overall sense gained from multiple listenings is an attempt to break away from his usual “afflicted nice guy” parables, and the result is little more than awkward. He does manage to counteract the discomfort of his new tough-guy mask with a few catchy beats, but these still do little to improve.
The album’s opener, “Bombs Away,” is an aggressive, somewhat disjointed song featuring self-empowering lyrics. Everett lets go of his usual calculated structure and takes a more unpolished approach, growling out the verses and producing a gritty, almost hostile sentiment. He begins the song with a rhythm influenced by Latin American beats; a dark, distorted guitar riff is introduced after a few measures and endures throughout the song. It is a peculiar combination of sounds, although I will admit this is not particularly contrary to E’s style.
The album’s single, “Peach Blossom,” begins with a simple-but-bold, catchy drum beat, closely followed by more distorted guitar and more grumbling melody. At times the guitar takes on an almost pleasant, whimsical tune more appropriate to the title. In fact, all the lyrics, which describe smelling tiger lillies, marigolds, and peach blossoms, seem an unusual companion to the sound.
Everett does not fail to include a couple of softer tunes directed to past lovers, which make appearances in all of his albums. “I am Building a Shrine” is one example, and is packed full of deep emotions for its muse. These songs are more reminiscent of his inveterate gloomy demeanor. They are the most honest numbers on this album, and are easier to swallow than the more bellicose of this collection. However, they contradict the rougher persona Everett is attempting to introduce, and instead regress back to the underlying strain in his older music. His true inspiration has always stemmed from past relationships, and it is apparent he still cannot break away from the impact they have had on his creativity.
[three_fourth]The namesake for the album appears at the very end of the set, and feels like an affirmation for E’s newfound optimism that has taken on so many sounds throughout the album. It is a compromise between the new, aggressive positivity and persevering sorrow. And though it’s not his greatest work, fans of Mark Oliver Everett won’t be unduly disappointed.[/three_fourth]
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