The new Eels album: Feb 5, 2013
Taken from their official website:
"I guess you could say I needed space -- literally and figuratively."
That's EELS leader Mark Oliver Everett, aka E, sitting in the performance room of EELS' Los Feliz, CA recording studio, talking about how he felt after the rapid release of a trilogy of albums and embarking on two world tours all within the short span of just over a year's time. "That was an all-consuming endeavor. After that I knew it was time to get away from anything that had to do with the last few years in order to get to the next place," he says now. "I was in an expansive mood. After twelve years recording in the same cramped basement studio, I felt the need to spread out and give myself more room to breathe and experiment."
After 2005's BLINKING LIGHTS AND OTHER REVELATIONS double album there followed four years with no new EELS studio releases. That dry spell was broken with what became one of the busiest periods in the EELS timeline, beginning with the release of HOMBRE LOBO in 2009, the first of a trilogy of albums including END TIMES and TOMORROW MORNING, while the band embarked on two world tours, playing over 100 shows throughout North America, Europe, Australia, Japan, and China. Nearly a year after the completion of the second tour the refreshed and reinvigorated band assembled to make new music.
Having moved into a new studio, Everett was inspired. "I was now in a situation where instead of just a basement to record in, I had an entire house to use for musical needs," he says. The new studio, dubbed "The Compound," was designed to fulfill a myriad of artistic needs, outfitted from basement to attic for any musical situation that may arise. "It was exciting," he says. "It filled me with hope for limitless possibilities. And I realized I'd had a similar feeling when I first put the band together for the last two tours."
"On the tours it was apparent to me that this was the best band I'd ever been involved with," Everett, who has continuously rotated the personnel of the touring EELS from year to year, says now. "Night after night I'd throw them every curve ball I could think of and they'd always hit it out of the park, as the saying goes. We played a lot of stuff from the TOMORROW MORNING album, which was very electronic and keyboard-oriented on record -- without a single keyboard or sampler on stage. They made it all work as a live band, and work great. It made sense that it was time to pool our talents for making new music."
"We got together with no specific concept in mind other than being open to experimentation," he says. "The only rule I had was 'let's try it.' If anyone in the room had an idea, I'd say 'let's try it', no matter how bad the idea may have sounded to me at the time. I was often proven wrong, and I don't mind being wrong in the name of getting somewhere good."
The resulting album WONDERFUL, GLORIOUS is rich in highly creative, unprecedented songs. "I don't know what to compare a lot of these songs to," Everett says. "They're their own thing, you know? We were all really excited with what we were making."
EELS' tenth album is brimming with life and the tribulations that make it worthwhile -- the trials of a man fighting for his life, his sanity, and the search for meaning. From the quiet man pushed too far by modern life's increasing incivility in album opener "Bombs Away" to the title track's sublime acceptance at album's close, WONDERFUL, GLORIOUS offers the listener a vibrant and dynamic journey.
A number of the album's tracks come from the point of view of a man who has found himself at a crossroads in his life. Everett says that's no coincidence. Having written his autobiography (2008's acclaimed THINGS THE GRANDCHILDREN SHOULD KNOW), made the award-winning PARALLEL WORLDS, PARALLEL LIVES documentary about his quantum physicist father Hugh Everett III, compiled a best of EELS (MEET THE EELS) and rarities collection (USELESS TRINKETS), and released an album trilogy, Everett felt backed into a figurative corner.
Every time i find myself in this old bind
Watching the death of my hopes
In the ring so long
Gonna prove 'em wrong
I'm not knocked out but I'm on the ropes
- "On The Ropes"
The tragedies of Everett's life have been well-documented since the release of 1998's ELECTRO-SHOCK BLUES, an album dealing with the deaths of his entire immediate family. If nothing else, Everett's tumultuous past has taught him how to survive. "If something isn't working, I know it's time to reinvent my world so it works," he says. "Losing my family early taught me how to look at what's left and make the most of it."
You're all gonna be sorry
When I leave town
And get it together
For the turnaround
- "The Turnaround"
It's looking good
I dug my way out
I'm changing up what the story's about
When the words just sound like noise
I need a new alphabet
When the world stops making sense
I make a new alphabet
- "New Alphabet"
"Doing all of those career and life-defining projects at an earlier age than most artists do was really satisfying and very beneficial to me personally," Everett says. "But afterwards, once the dust settled, I found myself in the position of having to ask myself 'now what?' That was the last chapter of my book: 'Now What?' I didn't know the answer. But I'm a fighter and I knew I wasn't going to give up easily. Ultimately, I found the answer in the four guys sharing the stage with me."
Those guys, guitarists The Chet and P-Boo, bass player Koool G Murder and drummer Knuckles, each a multi-instrumentalist well beyond their main instruments, all had a hand in the writing of WONDERFUL, GLORIOUS. "Even the drummer has become a songwriter. Anything is possible!" Everett jokes.
Good will abounds on WONDERFUL, GLORIOUS, and it's all the more meaningful because of how hard-earned it is. Everett doesn't shy away from the darker aspects of life, "for the cause of getting to the lighter," he says. Over the course of the album he goes from being scared and confused, trying to fight his way out of the corner ("Bombs Away", "Kinda Fuzzy") to a man who recognizes the good around him ("Accident Prone", "Peach Blossom"), who accepts his worthiness of it and is ready to enjoy life's spoils ("Open My Present"), while realizing how invaluable the help of others has been to him ("Stick Together", "You're My Friend"), and ultimately coming to terms with mortality ("I Am Building a Shrine"):
Deep down in the cold ground
Such a sad place to be
But I'll be fine with all the little things
That I'm taking with me
"It's all any of us can do," says Everett. "Either you don't try and just let life go by, or you give it a shot and let the bombs drop and try to put a positive spin on it, all while hoping for the best. Every day you've got a choice."
In the end, Everett finds what he's been searching for -- the good will within his own heart. When he wails the triumphant clarion call at albums' end, knowing the rocky road his past took him on, it's impossible to not feel hopeful. Now able to make sense of it all, he sings:
My love is beautiful and it's here for the taking
It's strong and pure
And utterly earth-shaking
My love has brought me here to show you it's true
A wretch like me can make it through