Mark "E" Everett has had to endure a lot of personal loss and grief over the years. It's always been a credit to him that he's always been able to transform this misery into enthralling and inspiring music.
Blinking Lights may just be his best work yet. Written over the course of seven years, this album more than any of his others offers the scope to cover many of his personal tragedies. As a result, it's a double-disc 33 track sprawling epic, touching upon a number of events in Everett's life, both from childhood, and more recent times.
On the first listen, much of the album washes over you, with many of the tracks sounding vaguely similar. Musically, this is pitched somewhere between the first two eels albums, featuring some of the big tunes of Beautiful Freak, as well as some of the stark minimalism of Electro-Shock Blues, and the auto-harp is prevalent throughout. With subsequent listens, however, the subtle variation of the tracks takes hold, and the album truly opens up to you.
Considering all that's happened to Everett, there's a remarkable optimism here. Going Fetal, Old Shit/New Shit and Hey Man (now you're really living) are genuinely cheery moments, whilst the lilting A Magic World is an inspiration. Meanwhile, the excellent Trouble With Dreams sounds like the lost brother to Flyswatter from Daisies of The Galaxy.
Lyrically, we're on fairly familiar territory, with the wry humour of tracks such as Son Of A Bitch mixed with a charming, almost childish naivety on tracks such as Blinking Lights For Me ("and the doctor in the sky, gonna bring his chopper down, gonna bring me out alive"). As ever, Everett plays the well-meaning, misunderstood outcast very well, just listen to Things The Grandchildren Should Know, and the wonderful Ugly Love ("If she finds me so repulsive, she wouldn't be the first to wretch").
Of course, it wouldn't be an eels album without a great sense of melancholy, and Blinking Lights offers some of his saddest songs to date. If You See Natalie is an achingly beautiful piano ballad, whilst Last Time We Spoke is ominous. Best of all is Railroad Man, a song about losing your purpose in life to the relentless progress of technology.
The whole thing is held together by Everett's worn, earnest vocals, managing to be both deadpan and heartfelt. As a whole, Blinking Lights rarely jumps out at you, and could perhaps do with being five or six songs shorter. But given time, this blossoms into the finest moment of the eels distinguished career.
Key moments: From Which I Came/A Magic World, Trouble With Dreams, Railroad Man, If You See Natalie, Ugly Love