Eels
The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett


3.9
excellent

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
April 22nd, 2014 | 42 replies


Release Date: 04/22/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Uncomfortably essential.

Last year’s ramshackle Wonderful, Glorious, an Eels album that continued the relatively optimistic tone of the third of his late ‘00s concept trilogy in Tomorrow Morning, was, for Mark Oliver Everett, an unusually off-the-cuff release. It’s only a little surprising, then, that his eleventh studio album returns to the ruthlessly confessional style that Everett’s millennial output has largely been characterized by. Where Wonderful, Glorious avoided the problem of diminishing returns that has occasionally afflicted Everett’s recent career by being, well, sort of happy, the accurately named The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett takes the opposite tack. Cautionary Tales finds a quiet middle ground between the sort of vague worry that characterized Beck’s Morning Phase and the hyper-specific, crushing realism of Sun Kil Moon’s Benji, essentially treading the same paths that Eels have been plodding for decades. Yet Cautionary Tales turns its light more relentlessly inward than Everett has since Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, producing a viciously personal record that belies its warm arrangements. Everett wants you to know it, too; Cautionary Tales is both the first Eels album to feature its songwriter's full name as well as his relatively unobscured visage on the cover.

Those familiar with Everett’s own history will have no trouble deciphering the straightforward Cautionary Tales. “Parallels,” with its talk of quantum mechanics and other worlds, is a heartbreaking ode to his famous physicist father and one of Eels’ best songs to date, sporting the kind of tender, deceptively catchy melody that Everett seemingly tosses off in his sleep. What prevents these bare-bones arrangements from turning into another soul-deadening catalog of Everett’s blues in the pursuit of women (“Agatha Chang,” “Kindred Spirit”) or general despair and doom in regards to relationships and family (“Lockdown Hurricane,” Dead Reckoning”), is Everett’s masterful use of a limited palette. The creepy children’s music box contrasting with the venom in Everett’s words on “A Series of Misunderstandings,” or the drum cameo that provides the emotional bounce to the optimistic “Mistakes of My Youth” – Everett’s touches are light and flexible, soft brushstrokes instead of busy watercolors.

As a portrait of middle age – Everett turned 50 during its recording – Cautionary Tales is refreshingly honest. Despite its often grim subject matter, it’s impossible to ignore the reflective sequence of “Mistakes of My Youth” and “Where I’m Going” that close the record. “I’ve got a good feeling / about where I’m going,” Everett’s sandpaper vocals sing while a piano plinks out that gorgeous major-key melody and barely-there strings hum in the background. Everett’s seen a lot of shit, but the takeaway from Cautionary Tales is never that life is overwhelming, that the shit will swallow you whole. That’s why Cautionary Tales works best not as a portrait of Everett’s purely autobiographical travails, but of a snapshot of life in general, no matter where you are in it. Everett has always been a songwriter following hope in the midst of all of life’s terrible choices. Cautionary Tales, ending with the simple platitude to focus on the future, not the past, was never any different. In its simplicity lies a uniquely Eels beauty, realistic and wise. It may be unsure, yes, and there’s certainly some fresh horror around the bend, somewhere, but perhaps that future is more promising than what came before.




Recent reviews by this author
Tennis Ritual In RepeatDeath From Above 1979 The Physical World
...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead Source Tags & CodesRyan Adams Ryan Adams
Blonde Redhead BarraganThe New Pornographers Brill Bruisers
user ratings (34)
Chart.
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
April 22nd 2014


7343 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yessss I hoped there'd be a staff review for this. I wanted to do one myself but I'm bogged down with
dissertation work at present :-(

I'll read the review later, but the rating is spot-on.

klap
Staff Reviewer
April 22nd 2014


10457 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

this might be a 4! negligible difference

Digging: Cymbals Eat Guitars - LOSE

TWIGtheWONDERKID
April 22nd 2014


815 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is really good. I hate to say it but I like E more when he's less happy.

Digging: Patrick Wolf - Lycanthropy

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
April 22nd 2014


7343 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, regrettably he's one of those musicians whose best music is borne of misery. It's one of the
reasons why this can be so uncomfortable to listen to. I can't wait to hear this stuff live.

TWIGtheWONDERKID
April 22nd 2014


815 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

You don’t have to wait long. The tour starts soon—going to see them in three weeks.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
April 22nd 2014


7343 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I know - I'm seeing them in June and July.

Given the venues they've got lined up I expect they'll play most, if not all, of this record. That's
one of the reasons why Eels are such a great live band, they do something different with every new
tour.

klap
Staff Reviewer
April 22nd 2014


10457 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

i'm surprised at some of the negative press this has gotten too

TWIGtheWONDERKID
April 22nd 2014


815 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Really!?

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
April 22nd 2014


7343 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It's true that this record retreads old ground, but for it's come as a real surprise, especially after Tomorrow Morning and Wonderful, Glorious. I find the emotional fluctuation between his albums genuinely compelling, especially given his past.

Athom
Staff Reviewer
April 22nd 2014


17215 Comments


This is the record I wish the new Beck was.

Digging: Inigo Kennedy - Vaudeville

greg84
Staff Reviewer
April 22nd 2014


7397 Comments


'Cautionary Tales is a refreshingly honest.'

^Fix this. I'm inclined to give this a whirl.

Digging: Lo-Pan - Colossus

klap
Staff Reviewer
April 22nd 2014


10457 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

got it, thanks gregory. you should

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
April 22nd 2014


23845 Comments


Album Rating: 3.9

this might be a 4!


hey there buddy it can't be both ways. I'm going to need a decision pretty fucking quick here.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
April 22nd 2014


23845 Comments


this is literally the biggest staff-rating scandal of all-time

ExcentrifugalForz
April 22nd 2014


1735 Comments


We're all on pins and needles


klap
Staff Reviewer
April 22nd 2014


10457 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

i'm literally advocating for a 3.95 rating option as we speak

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
April 22nd 2014


23845 Comments


hmmm, no, that's still not precise enough. I need to know whether this is a 3.954 or a 3.945

ps I just read this review and good jobbbb. You've convinced me to give this a go when I haven't really cared about Eels for a few years.

EaglesBecomeVultures
April 22nd 2014


5245 Comments


that beard is ratchet af

Digging: The Rural Alberta Advantage - Mended With Gold

Epilogue
April 22nd 2014


1591 Comments


chelsea wolfe is playing as support for this guy in a show near me soon. i really want to go for her but am unsure of this guy.

Xenophanes
Emeritus
April 22nd 2014


10594 Comments


Cautiously optimistic but you aren't one to steer me wrong except all of the time but I will check
regardless ; )

Digging: Grouper - Ruins



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy