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REVIEW: Eels – ‘The Deconstruction’ (E Works)

Eleven albums down the road and back from a four year ‘sabbatical’, E (more commonly known as Mark Oliver Everett) of Eels described their 12th album The Deconstruction as “15 new Eels tracks that may or may not inspire, rock, or not rock you. The world is going nuts. But if you look for it, there is still great beauty to be found.” It sets the tone for the album down pat – it’s nothing out of the ordinary from the usual Eels discography musically, but it’s uplifting, yet realistic aftertaste makes the 42 minutes of the LP both an optimistic and existential lyrical voyage.

Eels have been typecast as the ‘tragic band’ for a reason –  the overall outlook on their work has been heavily influenced by the ‘buzz’ of the dark and tragic that were more than apparent in the band’s first releases. The early death of E’s parents and the suicide of his sister formed the main thematic axis of Eels’ most critically acclaimed works, 1996’s debut album Beautiful Freak and its 1998 follow-up Electro-Shock Blues, resulting in the public consensus that Mark Everett is ‘that guy that lost a lot of loved ones and now creates depressing music’.

The Deconstruction shatters any such preconceptions. Wistful, positive and compassionate, the album shows Everett as a creative force transitioning into a writer with a different voice, no longer lingering on the gritty narratives that plagued numerous past albums, though it might leave the old Eels fans hungry for something meatier and more complex, as the musical side of the album seems to have missed the memo to change gears and sound, not only read, as refreshing.

The overall message of The Deconstruction is that it’s all going to be okay, in the end. Somehow Eels manage to balance the line between sappiness and profoundness throughout all 15 tracks and truly end up with an album that could be considered a “compassionate” antidote to the current state of world affairs”. It’s a bold statement indeed – just by listening to the newest Eels record, the world won’t be ‘cured’ of turmoil, political instability and global warming, but with the latest trends to produce moody, gritty and violent entertainment to reflect the state of the world and ‘be realistic’, a hopeful and affirming music record can go a long way in cleansing a muddied state of mind. Songs like ‘Premonition’, ‘Rusty Pipes’ and ‘Be Hurt’ manage to sound positive without being naive. ‘Premonition’ discusses the smallness of one’s life and the unstoppable circle of life and death: “I had a premonition/ It’s all gonna be fine/ You can kill or be killed/ But the sun’s gonna shine”. It’s very early-Eels sounding in its production and whispery vocals.

‘Bone Dry’ follows with its kooky cartoonishness that would sound out of place and over the top anywhere else on the album because of its refusal to take itself too seriously – it sounds like something a cartoon skeleton would sing (oh wait, that’s exactly what happens here), but has a ‘phat’ guitar solo which makes it worth the “shooby dooby dooby doos” and “sha la las”. ‘Sweet Scorched Earth’ celebrates love on a dying planet, while ‘You Are The Shining Light’ gets away with the preachy name thanks to its boogie-like bass line and swanky keyboards. Preachiness might be found on the last track ‘In Our Cathedral’ with lines like “We are safe / We are free / Always were and will be” while promising that “There’s a place where your heart can still be open”. Eels probably reach the height of their sappiness on that track, but the intention to make the cathedral a metaphor for the world we live in might make it forgivable.

Musically, The Deconstruction sounds mostly like everything Eels have produced before despite a few unexpected, almost humorous peaks in energy. That aside, it’s a refreshing listen for the old and new fans of Eels because of its affirmational nature. No longer sardonic and biting, some might say that Eels have lost the only thing that made them special, but if Everett gets obsessed with innovating their sound on the next album, we might hear a new career-defining record with a fresh attitude towards lyrics and music alike. For now, one is left with a choice whether they want to give the hope of The Deconstruction a listen – the only thing to lose is time. (6/10) (Aiste Samuchovaite)

Listen to The Deconstruction by Eels here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!

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