3 June 2018

Eels - The Deconstruction


Over the years, the Eels have released some of the darkest music to ever grace a record player.  Outside of possibly Nick Cave, E is a man who can make sunshine disappear whilst his music plays.  Not that he is trying to make the world a miserable experience, but his tones are dark at the best of times.   Last year, I read his autobiography Things the Grandchildren Should Know.  It's a short book, but one that was full of an intensity, warmth, sorrow and beauty.  It went some way to explain a lot of background to Mark Oliver Everett - the artist known as E - to show how he was moulded into the person he had become. 

The Deconstruction is the first album from the Eels in four years.  Since the release of The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett, E has experienced marriage, divorce, as well as the birth of his child.  All the while, he recharged his emotional batteries, as well as contemplating possible retirement.  It's obviously something that he needed to do.  It is also a bold and brave statement to the world, to have the courage to step aside from his creation.  That must have been so liberating, to be able to step outside of the project you've nurtured in public.  However, this didn't mean that E stopped being an artist.  He was still writing and creating, but it was just for pleasure and without the aim to release an album.  Recorded in various studios around the USA, The Deconstruction focuses on compassion, kindness and love.  It's a step away from some of the darkest of their soul, but is it a step away from their sound?

The delightful answer is resounding no, they still sound as dark as ever.  To be honest, I love the fact that whilst the lyrics are positive, the music is still dark and beautiful.  This is an album designed to comfort you in the dark moments of the night.  There is some much love on The Deconstruction, so much beauty and it hurts to hear the vulnerability of the artist.  "In Our Cathedral" is a prime example of how naked this album sound.  The admission of frailty, of loss and of pain, displayed for all to see.  However, at the very core of the song is determination, mixed with a tiny glimmer of hope. 

Another example of the beauty of this record can be found on the short, but poignant lullaby "Archie Goodnight".   A song that E wrote for his son to help him reach the land of Nod.  It's a wonderfully personal moment, one that I was not expecting.  The title track is another song that deals with something deeply personal.  On "The Deconstruction", Eels look at the burnout of their lead singer. You're viewing the collapse of E the artist, an act which leave Mark the man remaining.  By making the attempt to let go of the artist persona, E is attempting something that some people wouldn't be able to comprehend.  To reach the point where you have to excuse yourself from your successes, where you must gain personal freedom, it's a beautiful song.  "The Deconstruction" is an inspiration to this blogger.

Musically, the Eels are in minimalist mode.  Pick any song you wish - "The Epiphany", "Coming Back", "The Unanswerable", the amazing "Rusty Pipes" - musically minimal, emotionally charged and full of depths that'll make weaker artists curl up into a ball of pain.  Because of this, The Deconstruction is an album that will easily be dismissed as a dark and depressive experience.  But each time I've listened to this record, my heart is uplifted.  Maybe it's because I'm listening to the words and not just the music.

The only issue I have with this record is that it feels a little too long, it could have left a few numbers off and it would have been a leaner record.  However, which ones would you want to leave off?  Also, the sense of length is mainly due to the style of music, solemn-sounding songs do tend to make time stand still.  Anyway, that is me just looking for issues, just to try to stop this review sounding like a fan letter.  Overall, The Deconstruction is an uplifting, yet heavy experience.  It's an album that defies the normal expectations of an Eels record and shows that there is more to E than meets the eye. This is quite possibly the album which eclipses Beautiful Freak for me, which is a massive compliment from yours truly.

9 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost.....

Top track - Rusty Pipes

You can purchase The Deconstruction on Amazon here.

You can visit the Eels website here.

You can follow the activities of the Eels on Facebook here.

You can stream The Deconstruction on Spotify here.

You can stream The Deconstruction on Deezer here.

You can stream The Deconstruction on Tidal here.

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