Eels – The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett
Just over a year from the atypically upbeat Wonderful, Glorious comes the latest installment from alternative artists, Eels, with their 11th studio album The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett. An indigenous return to form for the band, this latest installment sees frontman Mark “E” Everett delving deep into his own personal anguish across 13 intensely intimate tracks that deal with regret, love, loss and personal evaluation.
The music, for the most part, matches the subject matter; never too garish, with soft orchestral symphonies replacing the neo-blast rock featured in its predecessor. That said, E’s fondness for the “less is more” construct is perhaps the reason behind the album’s many shortcomings. Where I’m At is a pleasant enough overture to open the album (albeit a bit stuffy) but ultimately one you wont be returning to on repeat listenings.
The same can be said for Parallels, a flat, sombre acoustic track that does little to strike interest, its only positive being that it enriches the majestically sorrowful Lockdown Hurricane.
The brittle guitar work within Agatha Chang is a wonderful accompaniment to the subject of heartbreak, however, E’s resort to simple teenage rhyme schemes makes for another difficult tune. Similar is the case for Series of Misunderstandings, a sinister sniping track that has the potential to be something so much more, yet falls apart come E’s flailing falsetto.
Other songs such as Swallow in the Sun, Answers, the Beatles-esque Kindred Spirit and spoken-word dirge Dead Reckoning appear simply to be filler, making the otherwise forgettable Where I’m From appear refreshing in its attempt to bring some uplifting qualities to the record. Single release Mistakes Of My Youth shows signs of becoming another mediocre strain until the charming vocal melody brings the tune around to resting as the album’s mainstream hit.
E’s insistence upon minimalistic structures finally pays off with the stunning Gentlemen’s Choice, a delicate heart-wrenching piano-based ballad with significant Randy Newman qualities, unfortunately restrained to only just over two minutes. This is something of a theme for The Cautionary Tales, with a number of tracks emerging apparently half complete. This unconventional style for song structure is fine in itself, but one can’t help think of what could have been if some of these songs were nurtured a little longer and fleshed out in tone and arrangement.
The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett was released April 21st 2014. For further information or to order the album visit Eels’ website here.
Watch the video for Mistakes Of My Youth here: