I’ve always had a soft spot for Eels ever since Susan’s House blasted out from the radio back in 1996. Taken from the wonderfully quirky and plaintive album Beautiful Freak I’ve loved their off-beat, emotionally driven lyrics and music. The album got mixed reviews as their songs had/have an intriguing mix of nursery-rhyme type melodies that lull you into a fall sense of security, then they go straight for the jugular as the lyrics drip-feed despair and emotional pain.
But after a four-year break the EELS, Californian born Mark Oliver Everett is the main singer/songwriter (known as E) are still here and back with their 12th album The Deconstruction. This precludes a UK tour in July including headlining at London’s O2 Brixton Academy. Prior to this E was busy on several projects which included writing his much-acclaimed book in 2008 Things the Grandchildren Should Know. He also starred in an award-winning documentary Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives about the search to understand his quantum physicist father, Hugh Everett III.
In 2014 the EELS released their lauded The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett and 2015 they released their extraordinary seventh live album Live at Royal Albert Hall which was accompanied by a concert film. That same year, their song Fresh Blood became the theme song to HBO’s The Jinx and in 2016, 2017 and 2018 E appeared in Judd Apatow’s Netflix original series LOVE.
Track one The Deconstruction begins with an orchestrated homage to how falling apart in your life leads to growth and hopefully change for the better. The production is beautifully reflected by The Deconstruction Orchestra & Choir. (The whole album has performances from E, Koool G Murder and P-Boo, production from E, and Mickey Petralia, who also produced the EELS second album Electro-Shock Blues in 1998).
Bone Dry has a great sound that wouldn’t be amiss on a James Bond soundtrack. It’s worth checking out the video for this including dancing skeletons recalling the scene in Jason and the Argonauts and Corpse Bride. It was in fact produced by Starburn Industries who brought in Corpse Bride animator Anthony Scotts to work on it. Track Five, Rusty Pipes embraces angelic choirs and sweet flute caresses. A laid-back, hopeful song. Today Is The Day is a really happy and joyous track, (probably the most upbeat one I’ve heard by them) and the video contains a very determined guy (the actor Mike Mitchell from Netflix’s LOVE). As E himself says of the album: “The world is going nuts. But if you look for it, there is still great beauty to be found.”
There are about three laidback affairs (including Sweet Scorched Earth) before you are almost jolted by the standout track You Are The Shining Light with strong bass and piano and the resilient lyrics “In the darkest night of the soul, guess what, you are the shining light, c’mon.” It reminds me of Pulp Fiction’s theme by Dick Dale and the Del-Tones. With a strong sense of optimism, twenty-odd years down the line, E still has the ability to turn his own personal agonies into sumptuous, shimmering creativity.