A Heartbreaking Work of Death and Embarrassment

Eels front man E plants some Daisies of the Galaxy and, finally, drives away from the graveyard

"[DreamWorks boss] Lenny Waronker calls Daisies 'a wonderful walk in the park where you're occasionally stung by a bee and bitten by a snake,' which I think sums it up pretty well," Everett says, laughing slightly. "To me, it's just about life. It's the sequel to electro-shock blues, but it's about the living, where electro-shock blues was about the dying part of living. If there's one thing in there that might be the point -- and I might be wrong about this -- but there's a song on there toward the end called 'Something Is Sacred' that's basically about the times we live in and how nobody cares about anything. It's saying you have to believe in something. We live in the nothing-is-sacred society, and I'm the king of it; nothing is sacred as far as my sense of humor goes. But deep down, you've got to care about some things and hold some things sacred. Once everything truly is not sacred, then we're fucked."

In his 1975 book Mystery Train, critic Greil Marcus, when describing the work of Everett's role model Randy Newman, wrote of how rock 'n' roll was in the midst of a confessional crisis; 25 years later, his words still resonate. "Truth telling is beginning to settle into a slough where it is nothing more than a pedestrian autobiography set to placid music framed by a sad smile on an album cover," Marcus wrote. "This is about as liberating as thinking typecast movie stars are 'really like' the roles they play." Everett could well have fallen victim to this type of thinking: It's not necessary to know his story to appreciate his work -- indeed, loss is the most universal of subjects -- but it certainly helps.

Everett once thought of keeping the personal stuff very private. He, like Dave Eggers, is media-literate enough to know that confessions very often ring hollow and phony and desperate. But he can't stop himself, so he keeps on writing about life and death and life after death. For himself, yeah -- and for anyone interested in hopping a ride to the cemetery.

Mark "E" Everett's life is an open book and, occasionally, an open wound.
Mark "E" Everett's life is an open book and, occasionally, an open wound.

"When I was actually working on electro-shock blues, I was very happy," Everett says. "I was very excited artistically about it. Like most people, I never thought about writing about those things. It never occurred to me to be inspired by so-called tragic events, and they were so personal that I thought, 'Aw, I'm not going to use that as fodder for my music.' And then this light bulb went off over my head one night, and I realized, 'Oh, I can try to make something beautiful out of all this misery, and even better, I can explore it and see what it means on a bigger scale.' And I got very excited from an artistic point of view, and I'm so lucky that I had that, ya know? But the thing is, if going to therapy and getting better and having a happy ending to my life was at the expense of writing songs and making music, that's fine with me. I truly want a happy ending. I'm really trying to have a good life."

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