As Eels release their 10th studio album it’s easy to reflect on the band’s journey. From 'Beautiful Freak' through to 'Wonderful, Glorious', Eels have remained in a world of their own creating intellectual melancholy pop that stays interesting while having a little fun.
'Wonderful, Glorious' may be a more dampened affair than some of E’s previous outputs but there’s a sure sense that tonight will not lower our mood. Despite that unique gruff voice, each line is juxtaposed by the twinkling rhythmic background that quickly reminds you there is a lighter side to life.
E's vocals instantly seem at home among the scuzzy guitars and flailing crowds. Eels's cult status is clear as fans in band t-shirts fight towards the middle cheering with each small gesture from the stage. After ten minutes of whoops sandwiched with quick musical interludes and trash talk akin to WWE, it’s clear E isn't ready to surrender to a safe, melodic lull. Instead he morphs into an unlikely Shaun Ryder figure, tambourine in hand, shaking aggressive gestures with every round of applause.
The mood suddenly drops like a stone and we’re treated to a few kind hearted, quiet numbers that gives the crowd the opportunity to appreciate Eels’s stripped back melodies. The silliness is taken away and for a moment the mood shifts entirely to a laid back waltz as E’s clear vocals shine a light on the touching lyrics. Slowly we’re eased into a gentle middle ground, but E’s not wanting us to dwell for long. We’re thrown back into the pounding repetitive rhythms and jovial personas. However it provides a great backdrop with an 'Itchycoo Park' cover slotting in nicely among the mayhem of ‘Kinda Fuzzy’.
The show is super-charged, but we’re only given the radio-friendly hits and little else. The touching, raw energy running through the band’s records is absent leaving the performance two dimensional. E’s vocals flick as if from FM to Digital with his voice carrying an added clarity unheard on Eels records. It loses that lo-fi element but instead is replaced with a comfortable combination of slick guitars and chattering drums. As E jumps in for another band hug we long for a hazy, stripped back set but - live, at least - it looks like those days are gone.
Words by Ruth Offord
Photos by Danny Payne