Eels – Wonderful, Glorious (Music Review)

Wonderful, Glorious cover

Eels – Wonderful, Glorious

Eels’ confessional lyrics are a welcome relief from the ironic detachment and guarded personalities of today. The band has even been given credit for inspiring the emo scene, but frontman E always stayed oblivious to the trends around him. His consistency through two decades of changing styles probably explains why the band is still around, but it does get repetitive at times. With their three-album “trilogy” in 2009 and 2010, I found myself losing interest very suddenly. But after taking a few more years off, I’m relieved to be enjoying their new album. I can’t say for sure whether Wonderful, Glorious is truly better, or if I just needed to ignore a couple albums so that they would sound fresh again, but I’m happy either way.

Wonderful, Glorious is still not one of the band’s stronger albums. Eels have seemed less musically adventurous since drummer Butch’s departure in 2003, and this one finds them consistently in their “nerdy white guy blues” mode. It’s comfortable, though, and it seems to encourage the most direct lyrics yet. If anything, E crosses into the territory of corny clichés, with songs like “You’re My Friend” and “Stick Together”. (Sample lines: “Yeah, you’re my friend/ Coming through again and again/ Your good will I never will betray”, and “It’s very clear we make a winning team/ We gotta stick together”.) E’s confident lack of coolness comes through for him, though, and he makes even those lines (ok, almost all lines except those) work. Despite playing it safe musically, it appears that this first theme-less album since 2005 freed E to write natural-sounding lyrics again. And as silly as those quotes may sound, long-term fans will appreciate the fact that he finally seems happy and comfortable with his life.

That matters. At this point, checking in with E is one of the main reasons to buy an Eels album. It’s sort of like keeping up with your favorite blog: You don’t expect the author to surprise you with innovations all the time, but it’s still worthwhile to keep up with their life. (Admittedly, buying an album is different than reading a blog. But this way, you get music, too!) Wonderful, Glorious features both the every-day moments and the mundane life changes. (“Bombs Away”, for example, is about the decision to be louder and more assertive.) As long as they don’t appear very frequently, I could keep enjoying Eels albums like this for a long time.

Grade: B

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