Now that Mark Oliver Everett has put Eels’ trilogy of concept albums about lust, love, and loss behind him, he can get back to what he’s done best over the past 20 years: air out his messed-up life for the whole world to hear.
“I guess you could say that I had issues,” Everett sings on “New Alphabet.” “But it’s looking good, I dug my way out / I’m changing up what the story’s about.” That pretty much sums up Wonderful, Glorious’ worldview. Having documented nearly every aspect of his childhood and troubled-artist years on record, as well as in an autobiography, Everett turns the corner on this relatively rosy, but no less ambitious, record that plays like a soundtrack of his post-trilogy life.
The 2009-10 triple play of Hombre Loco, End Times, and Tomorrow Morning hit like a torrent of pent-up emotions. Between the sex and heartbreak, Everett seemed to have found some sort of balance in his often-twisted existence. For all of his bleak discourses on suicide, self-doubt, and mental illness over the years, he barely had time for life’s simpler and more carnal pleasures. The trilogy was a long time coming.
Wonderful, Glorious once again chronicles the everyday struggles of Everett, who’s written about everything from family deaths to his bouts with depression to the long and occasionally bumpy road to recovery. But he sounds more at peace this time. As he sings on the distorted, bulldozing blues ditty “Peach Blossom,” “You gotta love what’s happening here.”
Still, Eels’ 10th album doesn’t sound all that different than the ones that preceded it. Everett and his band mix jagged alt-rock and murky swamp-pop with bluesy shuffles and fractured art-rock. The opening “Bombs Away,” which comes off like Tom Waits heading into one hell of a reckless weekend, contrasts with “I Am Building A Shrine,” a dirge-like meditation on his inevitable death. Total recklessness gives way to cautious reflection. It’s all part of Everett’s wonderful, glorious plan to reboot, one small step at a time. He gets it just about right.