Music News

Eels

Mark Oliver Everett, known to discriminating music fans everywhere as "E," headmaster of Eels, is the guy everyone wanted to be friends with in high school. Blisteringly smart and deadly funny, he's cool enough for the boys and cuddly enough to make the girls swoon. He's a natural-born smart-ass.

Everett's wry humor is not directed outward, targeting victims at random; instead, it's focused inward -- uncomfortably, self-effacingly, and at times bordering on morbidly. It's a textbook case of deferral, in which the smiles hide the pain. He's built his career on it, turning nearly every one of his near-perfect brand of pop into a therapy session: The Eels catalogue charts a trajectory for pain, tragedy, healing and growth, all with an existentialist embrace of life.

Yes, there's a paradox there, but nevertheless, Shootenanny!, released earlier this year, is the happiest and most fun Eels record to date. The sound is not much different from what listeners might expect, but the spirit is more playful. "Saturday Morning," for example, is told from the perspective of an 8-year-old who has woken up far too early on Saturday morning to be up to any good. In it, Everett captures the essence of youth, the joy and agony of pent-up childish energy begging to be spent at a time when a day lasts an eternity.