Yesterday, Eels issued their eleventh album of close-to-the-bone pop, The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett. In recent years Eels have had a prolific outpouring averaging an album a year, and this may have something to do with Eels main man Mark Oliver Everett having lain old bones to rest with 2005’s life-encompassing album Blinking Lights & Revelations, the autobiography Things The Grandchildren Should Know and a BBC documentary on his physicist father who died when Everett was nineteen. But, with the direct and counselling title of their latest record it seems that Everett still has some things on his mind.
Songwriting sessions for Cautionary Tales actually started before the recording of last year’s Wonderful, Glorious, with Eels members gathered to make a highly personal record. The sessions were shelved though, with Everett citing the reason as the songs “made me uncomfortable… but not uncomfortable enough”. He reveals “If I’m not uncomfortable, It’s not real enough. I needed to dig a little deeper.” And deep he did go, with intimate lyrics looking back on a life misspent and addressing a pining heart, echoing the bruised airs of Tom Waits. “I grew up very fast in some ways, and very slow in others,” Everett says. “These are some of the trials and errors.”
While Wonderful, Glorious revelled in effusive, scuzzy rock, Cautionary Tales focuses on wistful, meditative tunes centred on Everett’s gruff vocals and sparse guitar, augmented by Eels’s sprinklings of orchestration. And although much of the album can be preoccupied with “Who-said-what” and “What-did-I-do?” moments, ‘Mistakes Of My Youth’ is a self-effacing and open-hearted moment of understanding that floats on lazy rhythms and uplifting string arrangements. Standing at the crossroads between the past and the future, where self-acceptance is key to moving in the right direction, the song is a cathartic and comforting moment on a collection of songs dedicated to the ones that got away. Things The Grandchildren Should Know Pt. 2? Possibly…
The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett is available now through E Works/Vagrant and can be streamed in full on Soundcloud.