All of Eels’ last four albums have, by and large, been given something of a ‘return to form’ tag; the subtextual inference being, of course, that form has, at some stage, been lost. Mark Oliver Everett has moulded his own idiosyncratic sonic template with Eels and you can spot an Eels song structure a mile-off: the piano ballad, the string-aided acoustic strum and the grizzly flat-out guitar rocker have long been staples, especially in recent years, but as Eels near the 20-year mark of existence, moments of true, varied, sonic experimentation found on earlier work (such as ‘Electro-Shock Blues’) seem an ever distant and foggy memory.

That said, perhaps ironically, Eels’ latest could indeed be a ‘return to form’ in a more rudimentary sense. It’s E’s most stylistically consistent in years, a largely acoustic, plaintive album laced with tip-tap country shuffles and pour-your-heart-out-propping-up-the-bar reflective lyrical melancholy. It’s a stripped-back, stark record – standout ‘Dead Reckoning’ even possesses an icy, bleak organ gloom akin to Nico – but the xylophone tinkles and the familiar chord progressions return pretty soon and so does Everett as we know him.


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