5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Goddamn right it's a beautiful life,
This review is from: Things The Grandchildren Should Know (Paperback)
I'm not a big fan of Eels but I remember loving "Novocaine for the Soul" when I heard it in '97 and I've occasionally dipped into their music every now and then. I recently got into "Hombre Lobo" and decided to give this book a go. Wow. Now I have to go and listen to every album they've done.
Mark Everett or "E" writes about his life in a candid memoir. His father was a brilliant physicist who created the theory of parallel universes but was a very distant man emotionally. E's mother was also quite distant but his sister Liz was the center of his universe. Liz was in and out of mental hospitals for most of her life and became heavily involved with drugs. One morning E found his father dead in his bed. A few years later his sister took her life. Shortly after his mother contracted inoperable lung cancer and died in front of him. He lost friends, a roadie called Spider, to heroin, and the brilliant Elliott Smith, who took his own life after frequent troubles with drugs. He also lost a cousin on 9/11 - she was a stewardess on the plane that hit the pentagon.
After so much death and misery it's a miracle E didn't take his own life. He writes that he was lucky, that he had music to save him. And what music! The text is scattered with lyrics which he explains as part of his life story. From being a young boy with a toy drum kit bashing away in a closet, to becoming an international rock star (a label he never gives himself by the way - the closest he gets is saying he's lucky to do what he does), E's story is remarkable for the overcoming of such hardships, of losing your entire immediate family in a matter of years and to find yourself alone, to then turn that into a series of heartbreaking albums is amazing.
It's written so well too. Even a casual reader unfamiliar with Eels could pick it up and become engrossed in the story. As a fan though I found out so much about his life that I had to go back and listen to the records just to see if I could pick up on what was going on in his life when he recorded it. The finale comes with the release of the "Blinking Lights" double album and the "Eels with Strings" concert at the Royal Albert Hall. All the themes of the book come together as he stands on stage and plays the songs of his life. It's very moving and shows a writing skill far beyond what you would expect of a "rock star". But for all the high level of writing E shows here, his lyrics, his poetry, are the best examples of his gifts.
"So in the end I'd like to say
That I'm a very thankful man
I tried to make the most of my situations
And enjoy what I had
I knew true love and I knew passion
And the difference between the two
And I had some regrets
But if I had to do it all again
Well, it's something I'd like to do"
What a story, what a man. Read this book.