Eels: The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett

Eels: The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett

(Vagrant, 4/22/14)

"Agatha Chang"

For the 11th Eels album, band leader Mark Oliver Everett — a.k.a. “E” — opts for a more confessional approach than ever before. As longtime Eels fans know, Everett has tackled highly personal subjects like suicide and mental illness in the past, but he has typically done so via an oblique, narrative-driven lyrical style that blurs the line between his own stories and the lives of people he’s observed.

Cautionary Tales, however, could have come straight out of Everett’s diary. A song cycle about a breakup and the will to live that emerged in its aftermath, the new album stands in stark, almost diametric contrast to its rock-driven, band-oriented 2013 predecessor, Wonderful, Glorious. This time, Everett channels his inner Tom Waits, Randy Newman, Nashville Skyline-era Bob Dylan, and even Burt Bacharach on the more heavily orchestrated numbers.

Fans used to Everett’s penchant for uptempo pop-rock gems might initially be struck by the crawling pace of Cautionary Tales, but even at his most languid, Everett’s effortless songwriting acumen ultimately makes for songs as catchy and hummable as anything in his body of work.