Release Date: Apr 6, 2018
Record label: PIAS
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
The four years since Mark 'E' Everett's last album represents by far the longest period the Eels mainman has spent away from the public eye since breaking big with 1996's Beautiful Freak. Still, his predilection for mining his personal life for inspiration doesn't seem to have wavered. And nor has his musical modus operandi; he's always had a magpie's eye for gathering together seemingly disparate sounds that end up sounding like nobody but Eels - think Randy Newman meets the Dust Brothers arranged by Danny Elfman, with the odd burst of frantic, punky blues.
Mark Oliver Everett, the artist better known as E, has never seemed averse to collaboration, but as the sole constant in the Eels' history, he's clearly a guy who needs to call the shots. And given E's eagerness to bare his soul in song, he may not want to share his multiple neuroses with a bunch of other musicians as he and his muse get to work. So the electronically oriented production of 2018's The Deconstruction suggests E has found the ideal format for his music, one where he can do most of the musical heavy lifting himself.
It's now over 20 years since Eels - essentially the solo project of Mark Oliver Everett (aka E) – first swam into the charts with their simultaneously catchy and unsettling single Novocaine For The Soul, which signalled the start of an early halcyon period of critical and commercial success epitomised by their 1998 magnum opus Electro Shock Blues, still widely considered to be a career peak. These early records also set the Eels template that they've largely stuck with to this day - a distinctive mix of sweet, bubble-gum hooks, skittering electronica and orchestral flourishes providing the backing to starkly personal lyrics that frequently touch on illness, death and depression. Since 2000's Daisies Of The Galaxy album, which spawned their last UK chart hit with Mr E's Beautiful Blues, one could argue that Eels have largely been treading water.
In the early 2000s, Eels made a name for themselves almost purely out of the unpredictability of their otherwise simple indie rock music. Whether it was bursting into symphonic orchestral phases, soulful choir bridges or tape-recorded spoken word verses; they were defined by their ability to lull and startle. Catchy but unassuming, frontman and showrunner Mark Oliver Everett (or just 'E', for short) wistfully sang through his especially dark subject topics; while Everett's seemingly helpless subjugation by his own rather unique, unsettled creativity was a massive draw to both their albums and live shows.
Since Beautiful Freak debuted in 1996, Mark Oliver Everett (aka Eels, aka E) has been crafting quirkily moody pop songs enabling him to hone Eels' eclectic sound into a unique hybrid style that is less a composite of multiple genres and more of an unclassifiable, singular genre unto itself. Over the course of 11 albums, Eels have traversed a varied musical landscape of powerful, atmospheric and intimate songs that dictate comparisons to the bluesy post-punk of Nick Cave, the raw, emotional energy of PJ Harvey, and even the iconoclastic ruminations of Bright Eyes with a little of the biting wit and wry humor of Cake thrown in for good measure, but always done up with a fresh twist and from a personal perspective. The Deconstruction, Everett's twelfth album, is not much different.
Not only is the sun the go-to metaphor for Mark Oliver Everett on The Deconstruction, the singer-songwriter displays a far sunnier disposition on the Eels's 12th album than he has in the past. Gone is his usual gloomy introspection and trenchant self-awareness, replaced by a surprisingly optimistic ….