Wonderful, Glorious is unmistakable Eels. There are the fast, bitter tracks with those oh-so catchy riffs and occasional saucy lyrics. Then there’s the slow, bittersweet ones, for when it all goes wrong in life for Mark Everett, the ever present leader of the Eels.
It’s not a great Eels album in the same way their first two albums Beautiful Freak and Electro Shock Blues are. But do Eels fans really expect that these days? What it has got going for it is that it’s certainly not a poor Eels album, like the self obsessed maudlin break up fest End Times (2009) was.
In many ways it’s a continuation of 2010’s album Tomorrow Morning, the last album by Everett and his assembled musicians. Wonderful Glorious shares that album’s optimistic tone. It also feels like a proper full band album, rather than a hairy bloke in a basement studio getting drunk and sad about lost loves (see End Times).
Seeing Eels at the Glastonbury Festival two years ago while they were touring Tomorrow Morning and churning out a highly entertaining ‘best of’ set I was struck by what a timeless dirty rock ‘n’ roll band they are. Part classic R’n'B and soul-funk, part punk, all with Everett’s to the point lyrics and distorted delivery.
So here we are on album number 10 starting with Bombs Away, about a common Everett theme of the geek who turns. “I’ve had enough of being a mouse, I no longer keep my mouth shut, bombs away, I’m going to shake the house.” While the subject matter is a bit clichéd the track is still well executed, with guitar solos in just the right place and the dirty soul riff keeping it going.
The pedestrian second track Kinda Fuzzy heralds the weakest segment of the album, especially Accident Prone, one of the slow bittersweet ones that lacks the clever turn of phrase of say The Look You Give That Guy, from 2009′s Hombre Lobo, or End Times’ Little Bird. Fourth track Peach Blossom is just mostly a jam around a repetitive snare with a half catchy riff.
And so the album progresses between fillers and ballads until an almighty guitar riff on Stick Together wakes this beast up. The track True Original, with its heavy reverb actually ends up being one of the album’s most successful slowies.
Open My Present presented me with a quandary. It’s a pretty base sex song with appalling lyrics about “unwrapping my present” and “relieving my state, I just can’t wait.” But it’s clearly not serious and while it may sound a more than a little crass it is at heart a good old fashioned dirty rock and roll song.
The album drifts away a bit at the end into the fillers of I am Building A Shrine and You’re My Friend but ends well with the funk filled title track.
Everett is not breaking the mold here, but being out on the road during 2011 has clearly re-energised him and while tracks like Kinda Fuzzy don’t appeal to me here I suspect their focus on a catchy riff and a hairy bloke with distorted vocals will go down a storm live. Not a good selection for the uninitiated but there’s enough to please Eels fans here.
by Joe Lepper