This year’s annual release from Eels yet find front man Mark Oliver Everett grappling with identity and multi-faceted existential crises in a dreamscape of diluted aspirations and bygone hopes. As always, Everett’s emotional wasteland is wrought with anguish methodically nuanced by lavish strings and Wurlitzer organ, as deemed law by the arbiters of 90’s lo-fi bands that continue to produce music.
The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett is nonetheless a different breed. For a band that has been more or less treading water the past few years, Mark Oliver Everett isn’t necessarily radical – rather, it’s the most introspective work Eels has produced in years. Everett bares his soul in the most unassuming fashion, both coming off as visually and emotionally shorn.
Many tracks sound as if Everett’s wretchedness has led him to moaning his vocals over the glockenspiel while sobbing and wrapped in an ancient quilt. In “Series of Misunderstandings” Everett wails, “If I could do/just one thing/ I’d set that clock back many years ago/tell that motherfucker that raised you/how to treat you right.”
Unlike prior Eels albums, the repeat listening of Mark Oliver Everett comes off as low in totality. This reviewer has nothing against an album of the somber nature (Sorry for the “this reviewer has” bit; I’ve been reading Pitchfork and it’s like osmosis sometimes) however, there’s a line of demarcation of gloomy yet re-listenable and, “Jesus man, let’s give Pulp a quick spin while we recover.”
It would be unwarranted not to regale the album to some status of the “exile album” (Nebraska, Harvest, whatever John Mayer is trying to peddle) considering its recording and production was done in relative solitude and anonymity. Even when this fact is reviewed, it is then recalled that the band’s largest commercial success come from two of the Shrek films, and one wonders how much exile truly factors into the piece.
Nevertheless, The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett comes off as honest and undeniably brutal. It’s far from the most genuine and exemplary Eels album, then again, Eels ought to be allowed the 2014 release to skulk about to.
Born and raised on classic rock and oldies, Jake Tully consumed music voraciously growing up in Central California. He has his wonderful grandparents to thank for his love of music, as well as the amazing luck to have seen hundreds of concerts in his lifetime. He considers himself an eclectic consumer of all media, and further reading can be found at his blog.