Righteous return mixes melancholy with upbeat swagger
The tail end of the last decade could easily have felt like a swansong for the man called E. After putting out a greatest hits record and writing a staggeringly sad but life-affirming autobiography, he fired out a trio of albums (2009’s ‘Hombre Lobo’, 2010’s ‘End Times’ and ‘Tomorrow Morning’), in less than two years. After that, E could have been forgiven for putting his feet up. But on the evidence of ‘Wonderful, Glorious’, 49-year-old Mark Oliver Everett didn’t take too kindly to early retirement. From the moment ‘Bombs Away’ hoves menacingly into view, it’s clear this is Eels at their most visceral. E comes over like Michael Douglas’ hacked-off vigilante in Falling Down, singing: “I’ve had enough of being a mouse”. He’s the quiet man pushed too far by society’s indifference and ready to blow it all away.
After the spirit-broken ‘End Times’ and the sparse ‘Tomorrow Morning’, it’s exhilarating to hear E backed up by his old gang. Outlandishly named guitarists The Chet and P-Boo, bass player Koool G Murder and drummer Knuckles all contributed to the songwriting, and the result is something less confessional but more righteous than Eels have sounded in years. Tracks like ‘Kinda Fuzzy’ and ‘New Alphabet’ positively swagger.
That’s not to say the album doesn’t have the odd moment of elegiac melancholy. ‘Accident Prone’ and ‘True Original’ ache with real sadness. E’s tragedy-filled life has been well documented, so part of the triumph of this record is just how upbeat he sounds while talking about everything from love and loss to mortality itself. The title track is the album’s cracked heart; a love song to positivity. “A wretch like me can make it through”, E sings, and it rings so true you’ll thank God the quiet life wasn’t for him.
Kevin EG Perry