There are plenty of prolific musicians out there, and equally as many who go about their business with heaps of charisma. Yet few combine the two in quite the same way as the voracious Mark Oliver Everett, aka “E”, aka mastermind and central component of US alt-rock band Eels.
Spawned in the nineties, Eels have released a deluge of albums, with E the only real consistency. 2018’s The Deconstruction is the most recent instalment, and E and the Eels are set to return to Rock City this August on their ‘The Triumphant Return of The Triumphant Return of Eels’ tour (the second leg of promoting The Deconstruction, whilst championing their back catalogue).
Here’s five reasons you should get yerself down there for this rock show:
They’re a proper good band.
Seminal debut album Beautiful Freak was quite a long time coming for E - fascinated and gripped as he was by music from a very young age. Unleashed on the world in 1996, when E was 33 and following five years of solo record releases, it bursts with an innovative pop-infused grunge sound that departed from the heavier iterations of early nineties alt-rock. With both monumental and DIY twinges, the album kick-started what was to become one of the most varied sonic aesthetics produced by any nineties band. The album familiarised us with E’s voice, which is a rare voice; gravelly and crystalline in perfect proportions.
Eels uphold that ‘under the radar, but not really’ standing. Whilst not entirely a household name, they have influenced a load of artists, including Feeder’s Grant Nicholas, and have well over 1 million monthly Spotify listeners. E’s approach to making music is unwavering - dogged at times – but there have been countless divine moments in what followed Beautiful Freak: Electro-Shock Blues, Souljacker and Hombre Lobo being particular highlights. In the words of the man himself in an interview with Esquire: “Sometimes we rock and sometimes we roll. Fitting it all together is what’s interesting.”
It will get you in touch with your emotional side.
Spend a few minutes listening to Eels, and you’ll soon cotton onto their dark side; depression, death, heartache and loneliness permeate E’s lyrics on the regular. Do a little digging (or read E’s autobiography Things The Grandchildren Should Know) and you’ll make a startling discovery about how personal the lyrics are. E’s early life was besmirched by tragedy; his father died of heart failure when he was nineteen, followed by his sister’s suicide and his mother losing her battle with cancer within two years of one another. The dark and presumably cathartic album Electro-Shock Blues came out the same year. It didn’t stop there: his cousin was killed a few years later - a flight attendant on the plane that struck The Pentagon during the September 11, 2001 attacks.
E’s inconceivable life has perhaps precipitated his role of musical welder: moments of despair become diverse pop songs in his hands. Yet the ‘sad band’ brush with which Eels are frequently tarred has been widely contested by E. As he told the Los Angeles Times last year: “All I’ve tried to do is reflect life. There’s been some tragic stuff for sure. But that makes the bright stuff more hard-won.” And the bright stuff is far from absent in Eels’ output; 2000’s release Daisies Of The Galaxy features single Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues, arguably E’s greatest demonstration of transforming human horror into off-beat alt-rock. Likewise, a single from The Deconstruction, entitled Today Is The Day, is probably one of the most joyous ditties you’ll ever hear. It certainly ain’t all doom and gloom.
You’ll wonder where you’ve heard that one before.
Even if you think you haven’t listened to Eels before, chances are one or more of their songs will have graced your eardrums. There’s a list longer than my arm of films and TV shows which have featured Eels songs; I’m talking American Beauty, One Tree Hill, Shameless, and multiple time over in My Mad Fat Diary. Perhaps the most well-known appearance, however, is in the Shrek franchise - E’s work appears in the first three films. You know My Beloved Monster? Written by E five years before the first film came out.
You’ll also wonder where you’ve seen that guy before.
Recognise those circular specs and irreverent attitude? E recently popped up in Judd Apatow’s quirky Netflix series Love, playing a frankly quite irritating hipster dad called Brian. We’ll let him off though, purely for the scene in which he and Paul Rust’s protagonist Gus Cruikshank jam a version of Jet by Wings - proper good telly, that. E has played himself in a number of cameo roles over the years, too.
E is a Freeman of the City of London.
Yep, you read that correctly. The Freedom of the City of London used to be a seriously rare honour - only awarded to Royalty and Heads of State - but has in more recent history come to encompass a much broader sector of society. Regardless, it recognises esteem in the recipient’s area of specialism, and in 2014 was awarded to E – making him the first contemporary musician to receive the honour. Does it get much cooler than that? I think not.
Eels play Rock City on Monday 19 August.
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