American cult hero Mark Oliver Everett, known best under his recording name ‘E’, has been charting his unique path through alternative music for the best part of two decades, releasing albums under the Eels name with impressive regularity. Wonderful, Glorious, their tenth studio album, is immediately and distinctively within the typical Eels ‘comfort zone’ – understated, modest and yet fantastically competent and unlike anything else around at the moment. After the trilogy of albums released in quick succession between 2009 and 2010, this is a return to the ‘full band’ sound. Fantastic opener ‘Bombs Away’ sees E gruffly declare “I’ve had enough of being a mouse” over menacing drums and fuzzy rhythms that could have been recorded by Tom Waits or Nick Cave. The rest of the proceedings see Eels flit between chunky, scuzzy rock sketches and delicate, fragile introspective pieces. Of the former, lead single ‘Peach Blossom’ and organ-heavy ‘Kinda Fuzzy’ are the only memorable moments, the rest becoming tiresome after a while. Amongst the latter type, the sparse and tender ‘True Original’ or the countrified ‘On The Ropes’ are much more compelling, giving an inside into E’s oddball psyche. It is only at the end when the two tendencies collide, and to good effect – ‘I Am Building A Shrine’ and the closing title track are the truest representations of what Eels are all about. Their commercial peak may have been and gone – it is easy to forget that Eels were quite a big deal at the turn of the millennium – but if they keep releasing material of the calibre of Wonderful, Glorious then their place in US cult history will be cemented.
Words: Ed Biggs