The Deconstruction by EelsRelease date: April 6, 2018
Label: E Works Records
The Deconstruction starts with a gentle picking which is somehow immediately recognisable as Eels… the almost naive simplicty mixed with pathos that avoids being twee, a simple, ever-so-slightly self-conscious picking, and a swerving weeeooo shiny shimmering silk wisp of strings that glimmer and float over the whole track. And as ever, E, in this case literally, is threatening to ‘Break apart’. It’s a strong opener, with that strings sample/riff proving distinctive amidst the solid Eels signatures of thumpalong drum entry and even the odd glockenspiely tinkle.
To this ear there aren’t any straight-up straightaway hits along the lines of ‘Last Stop: This Town’ or ‘Mr E’s Beautiful Blues’ from earlier eras, which felt exciting and instantly, urgently catchy on first play. And a couple of tracks seem a little unnecessary, like the demo-ish lullaby ‘Archie Goodnight’ and the inconsequential fifty-five second drone & plink of ‘Quandary’, making the album a little uneven- some fairly formulaic Eels tracks, and some strong stand outs. The main one ‘Be Hurt’ with its almost childish melody and openhearted sincerity (“come on be hurt, its alright”) just gets lovelier. There’s harpsichordish dzings and another sample which seems somewhere between operatic vocalising and squeaking tyres, but repeated in a sort of soft gesture. Strange and brilliant, with the trademark vulnerability mixed with bluntness.
As ever there are a few somewhat sombre heartfelt wrestles with challenges and hope as in ‘Premonition’: the chorus lines “I had a premonition, it’s all gonna be fine” delivered with a made-it-out-the-other-side tiredness over a muted revolving chords and soothing backing vocal ooh-oohs. ‘There I Said it’ fits the familiar pattern but is more foregettable, with ‘Epiphany’ proving a more interesting proposal- the tone is similar but a sort of sweeping, ambient orchestration rounds out that washed out post-tragic exhilaration.
And such tracks of course are always followed by leaping energy, the looped and cut, ever so slightly staticky processedness of the drums on ‘Rusty Pipes’ or the joyfully self-acknowledging ‘Today is the Day’. ‘You Are the Shining Light’ bursts into action after the touching ‘Be Hurt’ but just fizzes along without any tuneful urgency. Much more insistent and entertaining is ‘Bone Dry’, which in its up tempo shimmering shimmying shake reminded me actually a bit of Mark Lanegan’s recent albums, garnished with some lovely carbonated piano twinkles, again showing the special quality of this band to mix music-hall pop schmaltz with some indie-rock pathos. It’s got some established, plonking bass, a shiffling snare, some shooby dooby’s and sha-la-las, but it’s done somehow without being too showy.
Overall it’s a solid record from a band who have carved out a distinctive space in dealing with harsh and difficult subject matter with bright and quirky aplomb.