When I set to writing this I first checked to see if any of their earlier albums had been reviewed on the blog already, if only to save me the faff of back story, and they haven’t. I find this very peculiar and also irritating as it causes me a little bit of extra work. Harrumph.
Eels, for the few of you who don't know, are an Indie Rock band based around main man E (or Mark Oliver Everett as per the title of this album). They were formed in 1995 and had massive success with their debut single Novocaine For The Soul from the album Beautiful Freak. Since then they’ve released several albums (The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett is their eleventh studio album) and compilations. The themes of various albums have differed though the majority of them are fairly morose and depressing. Morose and depressing in a good way...
Whilst I would consider Eels to be one of my favourite bands, I also feel their last few albums have been somewhat rushed and patchy; the last great album being 2005’s Blinking Lights And Other Revelations. Last year’s release was Wonderful, Glorious which was a lot more upbeat, both musically and lyrically than previous albums and it’s probably the best they’ve done since Blinking Lights. I was hoping this album would continue that upwards trend and not disappoint again.
The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett actually began life before Wonderful, Glorious was recorded. The band were in the process of recording the new album when E became uncomfortable with the direction the songs were headed, shelved the lot and started afresh with Wonderful, Glorious.
After a world tour, they returned to the shelved songs, reworked and rewrote them. These became The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett.
The album is notably more subdued than Wonderful, Glorious and the subject matter much more melancholy. The music is very minimal and stark in places though this adds to the feel of the album rather than detracting from it.
Eels like beards.
The album is set around three songs that serve as chapter descriptions, Where I’m At, Where I’m From and Where I’m Going. The OCD in me hates that they feature on the album in that order. Where I’m At opens the album and is a short instrumental piece, Where I’m From is probably the liveliest song on the album being a bouncy, acoustic country song and Where I’m Going is gentle piano ballad that ends the album with a burst of positiveness which is most welcome by the time it comes around.
The first proper song on the album is Parallels, it’s a typical Eels song, mid paced, miserable but oddly catchy,
Agatha Chang gives us some clue as to the change in mood of this album compared to the last as it’s all about a girl he lost and wished he hadn’t. There’s another Country feel to it but much darker and slower than Where I’m From.
Series Of Misunderstandings begins with some haunting Glockenspiel and some nice “Ooh-ooh”’s. Again, it deals with regret over lost love and is beautiful in its misery.
Gentleman’s Choice and Answers are the most minimal songs on the album; both feature nothing more than E’s gravelly voice and some gentle keyboards. They kind of blend into each other but are both pretty songs.
Mistakes Of My Youth picks up the momentum a little and throws in a little hope too. It’s a nice little foot tapper that might do for a single were one to be released. (EDIT - After searching for a video to put at the bottom of this I found that one has been made for this song! I should be a record company exec, I could do that shit.)
I'm happy to say that The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett is indeed a step in the right direction. My only problem with it is maybe a 51yr old man shouldn't be writing songs about getting dumped. Happens to everyone at some point though I guess.
There is also a deluxe version available that features a second disc of bonus tracks and live versions of older songs. If you’re gonna buy/download the album then you may as well plump for that one as the half dozen or so new songs are worth having.
8 out of 10 – Oh now you have my time, money etc etc.
Favourite Track: Series Of Misunderstandings
Listen to the deluxe version on Spotify HERE
Buy it From Amazon HERE