With Wonderful, Glorious Mark Everett has jacked in his stints moonlighting as a film maker and author, and returned to his number one passion; forcing rock n roll into compellingly uncomfortable shapes. Whether spasmodically danceable or making abrupt about faces, the 13 tracks of Wonderful, Glorious will be familiar to anyone with a passing acquaintance with Everett’s back catalogue. There are the grimey, bouncing basslines, the bizarre lyrical themes, moments of true heart break and yearning, and the fully expected quota of unexpected whirrs, clicks and buzzes punctuating rhythm. Familiar maybe, but more than competent; this is the work of an artist effortlessly at ease with his sound.
In a number of places Everett – like Mr Hyde turning into, well, Mr Hyde – transforms into a new century Tom Waits. On opener Bombs Away, a shuffling tango bristling with rogue crackle and scratchy guitar, he whispers and howls.
“I’ve been quiet as a church house mouse… I’ve had enough of being a mouse// I’ll no longer keep my mouth shut// Bombs AWAY,” throaty and theatrical as Rain Dogs era Waits.
Further examples of the influence can be found on Accident Prone – a closing time ballad of loneliness and bad love sung to the bottom of his glass – and the weird B Movie shuffle of Open My Present, all sly menace and road house blues. Waits’ mantle fits him, all the more so because of Everett’s own additions. His personality is stamped all over the album, most tellingly in his peculiar sense of melody. This strange, unpredictable funk first rears up on the Devo-esque Kinda Fuzzy, and returns throughout from the bit crushed casio beats of You’re My Friend to the sleazy bass throb of New Alphabet. So often the music shouldn’t make sense – notes adhere to scales that Everett has dredged from the darkest corners of his mind, and it’s testimony to his skill that they drive his songs into unique jerking dances. The only major departure in style comes on On The Ropes, a quick stop off at ‘being normal’ that takes the form of a country homage played straight. Everett’s downhome vocal style makes a good fit with the finger picked guitar and languid train track rhythm, and the track proves a decent diversion. Soon enough though, the album is back to his default state, with the weary tones of The Turnaround alternating between lullaby sweetness and nightmare guitar distortion.
It’s true that Everett may not have explored new terrain – for him – on Wonderful, Glorious, but when the familiar landscape is so unique, why bother? No one else is making music that sound’s quite like Eels, and I doubt they ever will. As an artist he’s a one off, the Waits comparisons a compliment rather than a dismissal. On this tenth album he’s once again navigated the tricky route between the complex and accessible, and there’s plenty here for long term fans and the uninitiated alike.