Eels, ‘Wonderful, Glorious’ – Album Review
‘Wonderful, Glorious,’ the latest effort from Eels (aka ‘E,’ aka Mark Oliver Everett), is unsurprisingly solid, which isn’t to say anything about the album is simply workmanlike. A true master of his craft, Everett is forever hanging out behind the curtain, creating, refining and fine-tuning what are the aural equivalent of gilded Fabergé eggs — pieces of sonic and lyrical near-perfection.
So does this album serve as proof that Eels don’t always get their due as the versatile band they are? In a nutshell, yes. Everett churns out consistently high-quality compositions and is also fairly prolific. (‘Wonderful, Glorious’ is the band’s ninth studio album.) Reliability hasn’t bred complacency, however, and that’s never been clearer than on this collection, which, above all, showcases E’s varied songwriting.
Compared to 2010’s ‘End Times’ (part of a trilogy that included 2009’s ‘Hombre Lobo’ and 2010’s ‘Tomorrow Morning’), which was a decidedly grayer sojourn, ‘Wonderful’ strikes a confidently no-nonsense tone. Everett doesn’t hold back, infusing his typically raw lyrics with a little more hope than he often does. Eels albums are hardly Up With People affairs — nor are they intended to be — but this effort is a vehicle for Everett’s version of optimism. It’s his world, and his listeners simply have the pleasure of living in it.
Standout tracks include the hard-charging ‘Peach Blossom,’ the chorale-tinged ‘Stick Together,’ the evocative ‘The Turnaround’ and the amorous ‘Open My Present.’ There’s longing, here, too, evident on ‘I Am Building a Shrine,’ and the album manages to cover a lot of emotional ground without straying from its rock roots — an achievement not many bands can lay claim to.
That ‘Wonderful, Glorious’ works better as a whole than it does in parts is undoubtedly intentional. Everett is no stranger to concept albums, and while this isn’t technically one, it’s engagingly cohesive. It’s not intended as musical wallpaper; it’s designed to connect with the listener. As a result, the album doesn’t hit any false notes.
“When the world stops making sense / I make a new alphabet,” Everett sings on ‘New Alphabet,’ sharing an outlook that neatly encapsulates the album. Everett is notorious for setting his own rules, and this album is no exception.