Mark Oliver Everett’s Eels are something of an odd project. After 22 years and 11 studio albums, it’s really quite difficult to pinpoint the act’s genre (outside of the ubiquitous catch-all ‘indie rock’) and larger cultural significance.
Far removed from the band’s zenith of popularity around the turn of the 21st century (largely indebted to the feature of ‘My Beloved Monster’ in 2001’s Shrek) with albums like Electro-Shock Blues (1998), Daisies of the Galaxy (2000) and Soujacker (2001) and the critical acclaimed career-high of Blinking Lights and Other Revelations (2005) comes the 12th entry to the studio discography: The Deconstruction.
Starting with the title track and opening line “the deconstruction has begun/time for me to fall apart”, the four-year hiatus undertaken by Everett (stage name E) is on show from the off. In that time he made only a few public performances, considered musical retirement, had a recurring acting role in the Netflix series Love, got married, had his first child and got divorced. So suffice to say that E has a lot to write about in his patented gruff style. A style that has been fairly criticised over the years as somewhat self-indulgent.
And with 15 tracks feeling their 42 minutes in length, self-indulgence isn’t just in the songwriting. There are three tracks on here that clock in at under a minute, with two of them – ‘The Quandry’ and ‘Coming Back’ – being pointless synthetic curios (‘Treefingers’ they are not). The other – ‘Archie Goodnight’ – is a cute, if saccharin, little piano ditty that you could imagine E playing to his son. Outside of those, the album flits between varying vibes from the rocking ‘Today Is The Day’ to the Portishead-lite beats of ‘Rusty Pipes’ and the flatlining ‘The Epiphany’. There is a little too much of the latter, meaning that the record spends a large portion of its run time dragging its feet along.
Ultimately though that self-indulgence is Eels. E has made a career of writing about the ups and downs of an anything but uneventful life. It might be fair to say that without the series of unfortunate events that have befallen Everett, we wouldn’t have Eels. Sonically the band generally has a scale of clean-to-noisy across its entire discography and The Deconstruction tends to stay on the cleaner, prettier Jon Brion-esque side of things with a few fuzzy moments (such as ‘You Are The Shining Light’ and latest single ‘Bone Dry’).
There’s not much else to say about The Deconstruction other than that it is another Eels album – complete with all the foibles that have made them such an endearing, enduring and elusive act to their dedicated supporters. For fans of the band that may be enough, but this uncompromising record might serve as an uninviting listen for first timers to the act.