Zachary Cole Smith has overcome a multitude of problems to make this intensely powerful album
Eels : Oh What A Beautiful Morning
He tries, he really does, to look on the bright side of life....
on 'Something Is Sacred', and while you might itch to shout, "Cheer up,
it might never happen", you can imagine him whipping out a sheaf
of health insurance claim forms
and undertakers' cards as proof that
it already has.
The surprise ironically titled 'Oh What A Beautiful Morning', is a limited edition, Internet-only live collation of last year's Eels Orchestra 2000 tour, plus the singer's solo dates with Fiona Apple. It's a sparse format that highlights the ugly world in which Eels exist, dug into the grim defensive irony of the permanently disappointed. That their preferred musical idiom is post-grunge vaudeville track two is a trundling instrumental medley of their greatest hits called 'Overture', the piano loom of 'Abortion In The Sky' a Stephen Sondheim spillage only makes it all the uglier. Rock music might love to wallow in misery, and given that Eels followed Nirvana, they needed to find a new angst idiom yet bleakness combined with quirkiness is an acquired taste in much the same way as unanaesthetised amputation. The comedy sketches of drummer Butch Norton dissing British plumbing and E pretending to phone Fiona Apple, the insufferable fluorescent-socked zaniness of 'Vice President Fruitley', the beautiful piano balladry of 'It's A Motherfer' marred by the knowing, rib-jabbing title; E's in-therapy rock can quickly wear thin, like being stuck in a room with the kind of chirpy neurotic who thinks Deconstructing Harry is the truly great Woody Allen film.
At best, however, E can transcend the curse of Weezer, and if you adjust your mindset, even the rakish jaunt of 'Mr E's Beautiful Blues' manages an emotional veracity. 'Flyswatter' is a DC Comics hero of a song, all distorted brass and wall-climbing groove, while 'Grace Kelly Blues' and 'Climbing To The Moon' are almost almost touched with the plaintive beauty of Lambchop. At least, until the singer sighs, "Got a sky that looks like heaven/Got an Earth that looks like shit." Of course. If E's going to up the ante, then he might as well use it as a gallows.
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