Wednesday, 6 February 2013

REVIEW: Eels - Wonderful, Glorious (Vagrant Records)


'Wonderful, Glorious' is the first Eels record since the slightly underwhelming trilogy of albums from 2010, and I was hoping for a return to form. 'Wonderful, Glorious' begins with the excellent 'Bombs Away' where an ominous vibe meets a vocal where Mark E Everett sounds like he means serious business. A great way to start the record, and like the title might suggest, it ticks and explodes. But by track two the quality has already dropped as 'Feeling Fuzzy''s chorus falls completely flat. In fact it makes you think "is THAT it?". The whole song sounds like it's been made up from odd bits and pieces that E didn't know what to do with, and it completely lacks cohesion.

'Accident Prone' is an uninteresting, quiet vocal and guitar snoozer that sounds like he could have made it up on the spot, while lead single 'Peach Blossom' is better, based around a thumping beat and another heavy, fuzzy riff. It may be pretty basic, but it does develop as it goes along. It doesn't take many plays for it to stick in your head either. 'New Alphabet' is a grouchy number that starts with the misleading line "you know what, I'm in a good mood today", but the mood is pretty pissed off. Sounding like someone who's up for a fight, like on much of this record.

Those moments of magic seem to be a bit rarer than before, but you'll more of them here than on the three previous LPs. The simple, subtle lullaby melody of 'One The Ropes' is where that gift is evident, and is the one of the highlights. 'The Turnaround' is another one, bleak, beautiful and emotionally fragile. But as it rises, the mood becomes more defiant and elevates the song to another level.

But overall it's flawed by stuff like the annoying 'Stick Together' and the somewhat clumsy 'You're My Friend', two inessential cliche ridden songs about friendship. They are both B side quality at best, and a songwriter of E's standard can clearly do better. On the sad twinkle of 'True Original', he does do better. The infectious bite of 'Open My Present' is also an enjoyable moment, as is the west coast funk of the closing title track, which soars into the light during its climax. The gentle "I Am Building A Shrine" has shades of 1998's classic 'Electro Shock Blues'.

But sometimes the inconsistency of this record leaves you wishing he could still bang out amazing albums like the first four. It does have more to offer than the previous LPs as well as being a touch more diverse, but it's still not up to the standard of 'Electro Shock Blues' or 'Daisies Of The Galaxy'. It does have some great moments though, and as a whole I'll give it a respectable 3 out of 5.
3/5



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