Album Review: Eels – ‘Wonderful, Glorious’

“I needed more space – literally and figuratively”, said E, describing his feelings after the rapid release of his last 3 albums between 2009 and 2010.  After 18 years of working with the Eels project, E now brings us its tenth release, Wonderful, Glorious, and ‘space’ seems a good word to sum it up.

The entire album sounds like it was recorded at the center of a cathedral with the vibrations strung from each instrument running up the walls, and reverberating around the room. Each band member (The Chet, P-Boo, Knuckles and Koool G Murder) is given their fair share of time in the spotlight. E has stripped down all aspects that were the essence of Eels, every howled lyric, every offbeat bass-line, and have in return presented them in a new, stark naked light.

The result is something less poppy than the title Wonderful, Glorious might suggest. Instead, we’re given an album that sounds like something Nick Cave might produce if he was asked to make the soundtrack to a Pixar film; combining wild lone vocals and twangy guitars with the classic Eels listener-friendly, sometimes childlike, touch. The opening track ‘Bombs Away’ is a good example of the album’s nature; what starts off as a measured track turns to howling and frantic guitar work by the end.

At the core of this blend in the album’s sound seems to be E’s own struggle emotionally. He’s had an infamously depressing life; his father died when he was 19, his sister committed suicide in 1996 and then 2 years later his mother died of lung cancer. Consequently Eel’s has had its fair share of depressing albums, End Times being the most recent, but he’s also famous for having responded to his losses with optimism; the last album, Tomorrow Morning, was all round pretty cheerful in outlook.

So what’s the tone of Wonderful, Glorious? Somewhere in the middle. ‘I Am Building A Shrine’ sounds genuinely positive and progressive whilst the quieter and more melancholy track of ‘On The Ropes’, with the lyrics “I’m a man who always copes”, makes it sound like E is definitely trying to be positive, but isn’t quite sure if he actually is. The track ‘Kinda Fuzzy’ sums it up pretty well; E’s struggles with his emotions in order to produce the cheerful album he wants. “I’m feeling kinda fuzzy, but you know I’m alright”- and sometimes this means you’ve got to do some manic howling to feel better.

Ian Fillingham

…Ian is listening to Spiritualized – ‘Oh You Pretty Thing’


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