Eels at Vic Theatre | Concert preview
The enigmatic indie band lightens the mood on its latest.
“You know what? I’m in a good mood today,” sings E, a.k.a. Mark Oliver Everett, the core of the terrific indie cult band Eels, on “New Alphabet” from their tenth full-length, Wonderful, Glorious. And he could almost make me believe it—this is the band’s first album in three years following the trilogy of Hombre Lobo, End Times and Tomorrow Morning, a heavy, concept-driven series informed by one very long, dark night of the soul. By contrast, the new “Peach Blossom” sounds like a summer car-radio hit from an alternate universe where Julian Cope and XTC sold as many records as U2.
Normally, Everett is a lone wolf when composing and arranging, but for this album he took a more improvisatory, collaborative approach with his band (mostly in his own home studio), and the results reward the risk: More than any other Eels record to date, this one sounds as if it was meant to be played live. There’s a relaxed confidence here and an almost giddy sense of joy tamped down only slightly. It’s not a dramatic departure in terms of sound—the on-the-fly approach doesn’t diminish the complexity of the music, nor is the emotional intensity reduced by much. It’s just that Everett’s one-man-against-the-world stance sounds gentler, as if he’s come to enjoy having a little backup, and his tendency toward dourness is played off beautifully live.