Luna Kafé e-zine  Luna Kafé record review
coverpic flag US - California - Full Moon 202 - 02/25/13

Eels
Wonderful, Glorious
Vagrant Records

'Most eels live in the shallow waters of the ocean and burrow into sand, mud, or amongst rocks. A majority of eel species are nocturnal, and thus are rarely seen. Sometimes, they are seen living together in holes, or "eel pits". Some species of eels also live in deeper water on the continental shelves and over the slopes deep as 4,000 m (13,000 ft).' (wikipedia on eels)

I hadn't listened to Eels for a while when I grabbed and re-listened to the break-through album Beautiful Freak (lifted by songs such as "Novocaine for the Soul" and "Susan's House"), and its follow-up - the traumatic, yet slightly fantastic Electro-Shock Blues - from my shelves. Then, some years went by and I briefly checked the massive Blinking Lights and Other Revelations (2005). I dropped off again for some time, and, well, it took Eels another 4 years to put out Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire - the first in a trilogy of three concept albums (fulfilled with End Times and Tomorrow Morning, both of 2010). Now, Eels are back, and like the wiki-description of eels goes, this for sure is nocturnal music, biting at you from muddy, sandy holes.

Eels is and has always been Mark Oliver Everett, better known as 'E' (even though drummer Jonathan 'Butch' Norton has been a steady sidekick for many albums). With Wonderful, Glorious Everett's 13th studio album (counting his first solo records; one as Mark Everett and two as simply 'E') is present with 13 new songs. The deluxe edition adds another 12 bonus tracks, of which eight are recorded live (at radio KEXP, Seattle, WA, at First Avenue, Manhattan, NY, and at Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA). "Bombs Away" is a whispering explosion of an opening to a more buzzed and fuzzed version of Eels. The opening track presents Eels like Tom Waits' secret son. "Peach Blossom" is another track of rawk action, mixed with more typical Eels moments, as is the song "New Alphabet". Same goes for "Open My Present". It's not that the whole album is of a wilder, freer spirit. Here are some calmer moments as well, such as "Accident Prone", and the country-ish "On The Ropes". "True Original" is a heartfelt ballad, and quite a fine moment, but the finest song of the album is called "I Am Building A Shrine". It's a tiny, little diamond.

Wonderful, Glorious isn't as glorious and wonderful that I was hoping for. It's a decent record, but I feel that Everett is capable of more. And, this is a record of the kind that he could make several of without sweating. Still it's not bad, or weak. Just a bit too soft-focused. Everett still is a serious man, but he's got a sense of twisted humour as well: Check out youtube for the deleted scene from This Is 40, where Everett performs "What I Have To Offer" (off Tomorrow Morning) for actor Paul Rudd.

PS! I didn't check out the deluxe bonus tracks (well, just briefly). I guess they can be worth checking out in depth and width. Especially for devoted fans, but probably for others as well.

Some Everett facts:
1: Dr. Hugh Everett III [Mark's father - editor's note], Ph.D., was what Scientific American magazine calls "one of the most important scientists of the 20th century." As a young teenager he exchanged letters with Albert Einstein, debating whether it was something random or unifying that held the universe together.

2: Mark Everett showed no talent for physics, or mathematics. He was much more interested in the records his sister [Elisabeth] was playing in the house. Every day after school one year, Elizabeth played Neil Young's After The Gold Rush album over and over. Mark listened.

3: At the age of six, Mark found himself at the next door neighbor's garage sale where he saw the toy drum set that would change his life. He begged his parents for the $15 it cost to buy the set, and they relented. Most children that get a drum set play it for a week and then leave it in the closet until their parents have a garage sale. Unfortunately for the Everett family, Mark played those drums everyday for the next 10 years.

4: As a young teenager, after a period of trouble with the law, being arrested and thrown out of school, Mark started to pay attention to the acoustic guitar gathering dust in his sister's closet. He had already been making up little songs on the family's upright piano for years. By the time he was 20, E was obsessed with writing songs and recording them on his secondhand 4 track cassette recorder. He wrote and recorded virtually every day of the next seven years.

Copyright © 2013 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Eels article/review: Electro-Shock Blues.

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