The new Eels album, Blinking Lights and Other Revelations
, is a two disc set about "God and all the questions related to the subject of God," says its creator, E. A homemade epic, it's an imaginative, emotional reflection on the condition of living, recorded mostly in Everett's Los Angeles basement over a period of several years. Sprawling over its two discs are songs about faith, responsibility, growing up, dignity, disappointment, comfort, hope and renewal.
Echoes of Everett's Virginia youth are heard during a fever-dreamed summer night's picnic inside the Civil War-era graveyard near his family's house ("In the Yard, Behind the Church), while the engineer of a dying travel industry laments the long gone Washington & Old Dominion Railroad that once ran nearby ("Railroad Man").
Finally completed in 2004, Blinking Lights and Other Revelations rides a wide aural spectrum of sometimes disparate, ghostly sounds--from the saxophone sextet gospel of "Son Of A Bitch," to the surf-rock operatic wail of "Old Shit/New Shit." There's the apocalyptic fire and brimstone of "The Other Shoe," and then there's the Jackie Wilson-in-cyberspace existential celebration of "Hey Man (Now You're Really Living)." The album is full of unusual instrumentation and some notable guest stars. One song ("Last Time We Spoke") features Everett's hound dog, Bobby, Jr., howling a lonesome solo. A few songs later, Eels-fan-turned-collaborator Tom Waits cries a solo--literally--("Going Fetal"). Later, R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck (making his second appearance on an Eels album) plays dobro, guitar and bass (the Buck co-written "To Lick Your Boots"), and on an album that prominently features the autoharp on several songs, it's exciting to know that the king of rock & roll autoharp, The Lovin' Spoonful's John Sebastian, makes a rare appearance, playing autoharp on one track ("Dusk: A Peach In The Orchard," co-written by Sebastian).
It may have taken several years for Eels
frontman Mark Oliver Everett, a.k.a. E, to write and record Blinking Lights and Other Revelations
, but the end result is no less than a masterpiece. At two discs and 33 tracks, its a veritable epic, but when your topic is no less than life itself, its good to have a bit of space to work in. This is a grown-up album about being a grown-up, and in the years it took to create, Everett has done a lot of growing up, and dealt with a lot of tragedy: his mother died of cancer, his sister committed suicide, and his cousin was on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. With all that, its almost a wonder that Blinking Lights
doesnt lose itself totally to melancholy. Sure, theres an overarching sense of sadness to this album (culminating in the beautiful and painful "If You See Natalie"), but tracks like "Hey Man", "Trouble with Dreams" and "Going Fetal" (the latter featuring Tom Waits) all display a hopeful exuberance and contagious optimism. It may be a lot to take in over a single listen, but Blinking Lights and Other Revelations
is well worth the effort. Its a remarkable achievement. --Robert Burrow