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Eels - The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett

Whichever way it’s taken, it’s bound to be enjoyed.

As Eels’ main man has made so much of his personal life public in the past – book ‘Things the Grandchildren Should Know’ and BBC documentary series ‘Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives’ the most notable cases in point – it’s not out of the ordinary to assume an album titled ‘The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett’, beginning ‘Where I’m At’, ending ‘Where I’m Going’ and with its mid-point marked ‘Where I’m From’, might just be autobiographical.

If it is, as he sings in that oh-so-familiar vocal “I was young and dumb” in ‘Where I’m From’, it’s the story of Everett basically admitting he was a bit of a dick in his youth, and using these thirteen tracks to count just a few of his follies. There’s the titular ‘Agatha Chang’, who he “should have stayed with”; the “regret and pain” of ‘Kindred Spirit’; the ‘Answers’ he thought he’d have by now; the doomed relationship of ‘Lockdown Hurricane’.

And yet, with ‘Where I’m At’ an instrumental excerpt of the woodwind-led closer ‘Where I’m Going’, the music often tells the stories itself – half way through ‘Lockdown Hurricane’ despair turns to hope; the line “teach that motherfucker who raised you / how to treat you right” in ‘Series of Misunderstandings’ is soundtracked by an eerie childrens’ music box. It’s not a stretch to imagine it’s musical theatre – ‘Gentleman’s Choice with its “the life that I’ve lead / I’m better off dead” gives the “I’ve got a good feeling / about where I”m going” of the album’s closer a whole new perspective.

Everett’s impeccable songwriting talents are such that it’s also possible to forego any lyrical themes – although there’s many a chord change to induce waterworks, beware – and just enjoy ‘The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett’ as it is: a gorgeous, luscious Eels record, sounding every bit as familiar as any of that suggests, the country-tinged guitars, the organs, piano, sprinkling of xylophone and those comfortingly gravelly vocals in which the world’s in love.

Whichever way this eleventh (!) album is taken, it’s bound to be enjoyed.

Tags: Eels, Reviews, Album Reviews

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