Mark Oliver Everett, a.k.a. Eels, has long been a prolific and impressive songwriter, from his first days as a man called E, to early hit single “Novocaine For the Soul”, his contributions to numerous film soundtracks, 2005 double-LP Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, performing live with a strings section, a greatest hits collection (QRO review), a b-sides & rarities collection (QRO review), an autobiography, a documentary on his father (‘Many Worlds’ theorem creator Hugh Everett III), and more, but the last handful of years he’s settled down into his singer/songwriter mode, with 2010’s bright Tomorrow Morning (QRO review) following quickly on the heels of the same year’s somber End Times (QRO review). But with Wonderful, Glorious, he’s returned to the wry & sly, rough & ready E.
From opener “Bombs Away” on forward, Wonderful showcases Everett’s gravelly-but-wry voice. He creeps up close on “Bombs”, is rockin’ in “Kinda Fuzzy”, but can also be soft and acoustic with “Accident Prone”, and somber in “The Turnaround”. There’s even his ‘old boxer’ persona (see songs like “Bus Stop Boxer” or “Prizefighter”) on “On the Ropes”. But he’s slyest and wryest on “New Alphabet”, as you can practically hear Everett smiling through his thick beard (QRO photos). It all works very well, the wry leavening the seriousness, but the change of styles making it not as one-note as his prior records (though it gets a little repetitive near the end with “Open My Present”, them there’s a Blinking sweetness in penultimate “I Am Building a Shrine”, and Tomorrow uplift to the title track closer).
With such an extensive discography, Everett always risks repeating himself, not to mention standing in the shadow of his late greats (that might have been why he did all of those non-studio excursions). But there’s a reason he’s made so much music – he’s a really good songwriter & songcrafter, and that continues with Wonderful, Glorious.