REVIEW album Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

American alternative rockers Eels are back

Old Subbacultcha

Old Subbacultcha

...With a follow up to their Ronseal titled 2013 album Wonderful, Glorious with The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett. But what does the band's founder member have to teach us?


Eels - Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett

Recorded at Mark's (yup, we're on first name terms) studio at Los Feliz, California - this album actually pre-dates Wonderful, Glorious. Mark wanted to record highly personal songs, but found the process uncomfortable, so took a break from this album in order to record the previous one a few months later. He's since been quoted as saying, "I listened to what we had done, and it made me uncomfortable… but not uncomfortable enough," Everett says now. "I decided to scrub over half of the songs and write new ones that would make me feel even more uneasy. If I'm not uncomfortable, It's not real enough. I needed to dig a little deeper." The album was inspired by Mark losing someone by choice and living with the regret of letting go. Knowing this, I knew I was about to listen to a heart-wrenching, soul-searching document of someone's personal struggle with human emotion and living with the choices we make - whether they're right or wrong. I knew this wouldn't be your standard Eels album. Tissues at the ready... The thirteen track album opens with Where I'm At. Immediately, I feel sad. It's one minute and 43 seconds instrumental of sombre trumpets leading into melancholic violins. The only way I can paint the picture for you with words is if you've ever watched a sad, independent yet quirky European movie. The second track, Parallels, opens immediately with Mark's distinctive vocals and that familiar Eels feels with a plucky acoustic guitar. It talks about a united struggle with ones own demons and how we each deal with it. It talks about helplessness but with a fighting spirit. Lockdown Hurricane has a bit more of an orchestral and ethereal feel. Perhaps an unfamiliar feel to those Eels stalwarts. Lyrically, this an extremely personal and stripped down track. It talks to your soul and empathises with your emotions.
Forth track Agatha Chang is an ode to someone who sounds like an amazing human being sung like a funeral song. We've all been down this road, remembering someone's good points, forgetting the bad points and crying into a large glass of Merlot. Don't worry Mark, the rosy hazy will soon lift and you'd wonder why you ever wasted so much energy on them. Although, if she's the inspiration behind the album, it's energy well spent. A Swallow In The Sun is a tale of despair and loneliness. This has got a bit more of an Americana country feel but without the overly complicated and descriptive titles. At this point, I'm listening think it's time for one of the Eels more jaunty numbers. They deliver with Where I'm From. It's a upbeat, cute number that talks about friends, how they help you through the tough times and remembering the good times outside of the good times with the person you lost. This is true, that you find solace and hope in the company of your friends and your home. And about rediscovering the person you left behind, like finding yourself all over again. Series of Misunderstandings is a title we can all relate to. Situations shrouded in hyper-sensitivity, over analysis, hearsay and an inability to communicate candidly. Hindsight is a wonderful and torturous thing. This track brings that to life with its softly sung vocals to the sound of a music box, weeping violins and gentle humming. Kindred Spirit is a tale of loss between soulmates who love and respect each other, but it somehow went wrong. Mark sings about 'getting that big heart back'. This is definitely a song about regret. Classical piano opens Gentleman's Choice. A song about someone's battle with depression. A feeling of not being able to function, failure and not seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. This is a deeply sad song, that ends on a suicidal note. Dead Reckoning sounds in title and phonetically like a 70s Gothic movie soundtrack. To be honest, I'm not listening to the lyrics in this one, I'm listening to the horns and flutes in this subtly dramatic and theatrical track. Answers again is a familiar feeling of just needing to know. It follows the same formula as the previous tracks - just examining a different part of the human emotional psyche that uncontrollably governs our every word and action. Again, I'm starting to hope that the next track isn't so downbeat. This album didn't let me down with Mistakes of My Youth. A brutal self-examination has tones of more classic folk and feels more like the Eels with know and love. Ending almost how it started with Where I'm Going, I'm hoping Mark is finding himself in a better place. I really want to give him a hug. It's a self-awareness that things aren't great right now, but he'll get there. A more positive swansong is exactly what this album needed. Listening to this album, you feel like you're almost prying into someone's life. A voyeur into someone's emotional dissection and healing process. This is a man's version of I Will Survive - except it wallows in self-pity instead of being a woman scorned. What the Eels are masters at, is making holistic albums that tell a story. There's no 'stand out track' or 'clear singles'. This album wasn't made for Billboard glory, column inches or money. It's an album from the heart. A cathartic narrative that despite being told from one perspective actually involves us all. For anyone going through similar experiences, your emotions will find respite in this album. If you're not, don't listen to the lyrics and you've got a chilled out, gentle Sunday morning album to listen to while perusing the papers. 7 of out of 10