red lights


Eels' ugly love

Eels - Blinking Lights and other revelations
(Vagrant Records)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Aug. 9, 2005

Review by Tony Bonyata

On Eels latest full-length album, Blinking Lights and other revelations, bandleader Mark Oliver Everett, who goes by the simpler moniker E, has followed up his back catalogue of dark, emotionally charged alternative-rock with a sprawling thirty-three song collection filled with as much hope as it is remorse.
This weighty two-CD effort was recorded in E's Los Angeles basement studio over the last couple of years. Although Eels is basically a one-man band with a revolving cast of characters, E has secured a strong stable of session guests for his latest effort. Longtime fan Tom Waits adds guttural moans on "Going Fetal," while R.E.M.'s guitarist Peter Buck inflects a ghostly dobro line to the number "To Lick Your Boots" (co-written by E and Buck). Also making a rare appearance is The Lovin' Spoonful's John Sebastian, who adds a beautiful autoharp on the sweet instrumental "Dusk: A Peach In The Orchard," a song which he also co-wrote with the Eels' frontman.
As E states, these songs are about hanging onto his remaining shreds of sanity and the blue sky that comes the day after a terrible storm. After having dealt with the simultaneous suicide of his older sister and terminal illness of his mother, which heavily influenced his 1998 album Electro-Shock Blues, many of the songs on Blinking Lights and other revelations point towards a more positive outlook on life. With fun-loving numbers such as the happy-go-lucky, Wurlitzer-driven "Going Fetal," the peppy "Losing Streak" and especially the irresistible pop gem "Hey Man (Now You're Really Living) it appears that, along with that blue sky, there may also be a little sunshine peering down on this brooding, introspective artist.
Of course, there's also a wealth of haunted sonnets and melodic melancholy for those who just aren't quite ready for the harsh light of daybreak. While numbers such as "I'm Going To Pretend that I Didn't Break Your Heart" and "Understanding Salesman" leave the same pang in the pit of your gut as Beck's entire Sea Change album did, there's also many introspective songs that are brimming with hope, such as "Things The Grandchildren Should Know,"  "To Lick Your Boots" and the reoccurring "Theme From Blinking Lights," which dapples a bit of sunshine throughout.
"My kind of love is an ugly love, but it's real and lasts a long, long time," E admits at one point near the end of this emotional ride. And like his love, the engaging music of Blinking Lights and other revelations is also guaranteed to last a long, long time.

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