Eels (Mark Oliver Everett, aka E) has always been capable of both angry, fuzzy rock and heartbreakingly beautiful ballads, often side-by-side on the same album... and Wonderful, Glorious is no exception.
The opener, "Bombs Away", and several other songs here stick to a successful Eels formula - big drum beat, extra-fuzzy guitars and shouted vocals. Here's "New Alphabet" - a blues-based rocker with a wicked snake of a guitar line, that explodes about a minute in:
But to me, the ballads on Wonderful, Glorious really stand out. The prettiest song on the record is "True Original", with "I'm Building a Shrine" close behind. A word about Eels and rockers vs. ballads - I have almost always preferred guitar rock to ballads on rock albums, and with most artists I find that the ballads are often throwaways - as if they are de rigueur, or just there to give the label something to put on the radio or a soundtrack. But I get a sense that Everett actually puts more into the ballads... thinking back a couple of records to Blinking Lights, where the ballads were so beautifully played and evocative. Then again, what do I know about what Everett thinks or why he does what he does? My opinions are, of course, my own... but listen for yourself:
It's a very good record - one of the better Eels records. It builds wonderfully to the terrific title song that closes the record with all kinds of pop touches - engaging drum rolls, quiet keyboards, E's best vocals on the record. As an album, it's very well-made. For me, I don't know what he could do to top Blinking Lights - that was a monumental achievement. But a new Eels record is cause for celebration and taken on its own, Wonderful, Glorious is an engaging record, and an enjoyable listen. It's out this week - on Vagrant Records.