It’s extremely hard for me to dismiss anything E puts down in the studio, even if I’m always a touch unsure of exactly where he’s going, musically. After his musical trilogy, Eels returns with his 10th studio album, Wonderful, Glorious. The music by and large has a jittery, upbeat feel, though E’s lyrics remain forever self-deprecating and introspective.
Wonderful, Glorious immediately starts things off with an almost circus-pop appeal, using what sounds like a kazoo to break up the fuzzily affected track. E reminds us that he’s been quiet for a bit, but that he aims to blow things up on “Bombs Away.” It’s an interesting track, though it teeters on the verge of being a bit too long. Honestly, by the time you get to the second track, “Kinda Fuzzy,” the album has already grown a bit weary. The everything but the kitchen sink approach is just difficult to digest consistently, though there’s a beautiful moment that begins near the 1.22 mark, and quickly fades into the distance. But, you’ve got to stick around to get to the goods; Eels always has the goods.
“On The Ropes” is the personal material that makes E a special songwriter. Quietly he plays the guitar and opens up to the listener about his struggles, though he vows to continue the good fight in the future. His voice is memorable, and his lyrics are wry; this is the Eels that I’ve come to enjoy since my obsession with End Times. If you dig deeper into the album, you’ll find “True Original,” this time pulling at your heartstrings with a strained vocal performance. The beauty in this track fully enters as light orchestration gently dances about the strummed guitar; you’re not going to find too many tracks of this vein that sound so perfect.
Wonderful, Glorious definitely lives by its own ebbs and flows. The high points are some of the best writing E has done in recent years, yet the lows revolve around my personal indifference to his monkeying around in the studio; he’s most successful when he’s straightforward and sincere. “I Am Building a Shrine” is another such song that stands out in my mind for the slow introductory moment, pushed into bliss by added musical accompaniment, before returning to the solitude of percussion and vocals. Looking back over the 10 years of Eels albums, and this might be in my top 5 favorite tracks. Yep. Number 4.
I struggled with where to go with this album, mostly because I’ve taken a strong liking to the quieter, more personal Eels. It’s definitely present on Wonderful, Glorious, but it took some time to get there. If perhaps the sequencing would have been different, pulling that 5.25 opener and putting it somewhere else, I can see myself enjoying things a great deal more. It weighed down the opening, but once you move beyond, you’ll find spectacular songs that remind you why E has been able to continue to reach an audience 10 albums into his career.