Theatre critic Kenneth Tynan said of the playwright Eugene Ionesco: “Once you have seen all of Ionesco’s plays you have seen one of them.”
Tynan’s words could just as well be applied to Mark Everett’s long-going band. For most of their career, Eels have presented a largely uniform sound. This isn’t to dismiss them; Eels have also been consistently brilliant, and any one of their albums is worthy of respect.
It’s more that Everett is like an old blues artist, still trying to make the perfect version of the sound in his head, this time with the assistance of PJ Harvey collaborator John Parrish.
All the elements are in place: crunchy minimalism (The Magic is a spindly yet hot Doors); What It Isn’t is a Mellotron waltz with falsetto vocals; Learning While I Lose is a jaunty yet melancholy song about experience.
There’s sweetness – Stumbling Bee is about a late-appearing bee – and there’s power (I Know You’re Right is virtually a Bond theme). We’ve been here before, but we’re back and it’s great.