After the rapid fire release of three studio albums in 2009 and 2010, which tested my loyalty as an Eels fan, I was a little slow-footed about listening to this album. In recent interviews, Mark Oliver Everett (aka: E) had talked about having absolutely no songs written and no plan whatsoever when he entered the studio to record Wonderful, Glorious. After one listen to the first single "Peach Blossom", I was prepared for the worst. But to my surprise, Wonderful, Glorious is everything the title suggests, and without question - the strongest Eels album since 2005's Blinking Lights and Other Revelations.
Now approaching 50 years of age, E has had a long history of constantly changing up his sound. In concert, he tends to alter studio versions of songs making them unrecognizable to the original. While in the studio he changes out band members regularly from album to album. This time around for the recording sessions, he decided to keep his all-star lineup from the last two tours in tact. Recorded at Everett's new studio in Los Feliz, CA, the songs on Wonderful, Glorious were written with the band. Most came out of jamming and experimenting in the studio; with E sifting through old notebooks to write the lyrics.
“Almost always when I make an album, I do go into it with this concept in mind about what I want the whole album to be about and what I want it to sound like musically in some way,” he said. “The difference in this new album is it’s the first time I think I didn’t have that in mind. I had no plans at all, and that was the plan—to have no plan. And it was a good lesson for me to see that you could do that and come out with something cohesive that did end up having a theme to it. It worked out very organically in the studio as we were doing it. None of it was arranged.” - E (from article by Brad Nelson/Black Book Mag)
With the last few Eels records being said to represent desire, heartbreak, and renewal; Wonderful, Glorious paints a different more optimistic picture. Here, the common theme seems to be standing tall and being joyful in a world full of chaos. And he does it brilliatly from start to finish. On the catchy rocker and second single - "New Alphabet" he sings: "When the world stops making sense/I make a new alphabet". While on the slow and steady favorite "On the Ropes" - "I've got enough left inside this tired heart /to win this world and walk on my feet/no defeat"
It's amazing how well structured these songs are, yet they still have a wild intensity and messy racket about them. Full of life, and filled with infectious grooves; these songs are destined to sound absolutely nuts in concert. Wonderful, Glorious gets even better on repeated listens. "I Am Building a Shrine" is a tribute to love, full of beautiful soundscapes which still have me scratching my head as to how they did that? Other highlights that instantly stuck out to me were Christmas anthem - "Open My Presents", classic - "True Original", and the bouncy - "You're My Friend". But the biggest standout of all is the closing title track which ends the album on a glorious high note. E shouts out to the heavens - "My love is beautiful and here for the taking/It's strong and pure and utterly earth shaking/My love has brought me here to show you it's true/A wretch like me can make it through."
E and his revolving band have always been best when turning tragedy into art. This time, with a new approach, Eels have surprised me yet again. After 20+ years, Everett seems to have finally come to grips with the tragedies in his life, and created a record that is truly inspiring. Wonderful, Glorious has turned me back and made me a fan for life.