Music that leaves you with a sense of unease is often some of the most poignant work you will come across. Whether it's a theme of loss, unrequited love or some common displacement, it's the stark human relativity that makes the work of Eels' frontman, E, that much more memorable. Born Mark Oliver Everett, the founder of the Los Angeles alternative act has been pegged as anything from a tongue-in-cheek comic to a martyr, but on Eels' latest offering, The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett, he has chosen to look inward. What he found there, dark as it may seem to be, has a more realistic message behind it.
"[People] think is that I'm the depressing guy, that my music is all about sadness, but if you look at it and you're paying attention, it's pretty much always in the name of trying to get to a brighter, more optimistic place," E says. "You have to deal with the sad stuff to get there."
E has been both a peddler and a merchant for heavy material over the course of Eels' 19 years as a band. While there's been many incarnations of the group, from the self-deprecating pop of 1996's Beautiful Freak to the family-focused Electro-Shock Blues, in which E dealt with his sister's suicide and his mother's cancer diagnosis, he felt that it was finally time to turn the mirror on himself with his latest work.
"I felt like there was plenty of songs where I was pointing the finger at somebody else, and then when I came back to it I realized that it was always my problem," he says. "The only thing you can change in the world is yourself, then it became a record about responsibility, which was a much more interesting approach."
While he doesn't quite divulge the events that inspired The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett, E is quick to note that any and all transgressions outlined in the record are no one's burden but his own. With such an introspective outlook guiding the album, it's no surprise that someone as thematically dynamic as E would delve inward so deeply, dredging up the darker gems from his past and putting them on display for the world to hear. This is a record for him, however -- if you take a message away for yourself, good for you, but The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett is a really benchmark for E, a sobering reminder of sorts.
"I could have only written it now because I didn't have the experience until recently that inspired it," he explains. "Basically, I was in a situation that was a good situation for me but I didn't recognize that and I blew it. Now I'm stuck in a place I don't really want to be and it's all my fault, you know? By examining it all, I've made a lot of changes to myself that will hopefully result in me not doing that again."
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