This is going to be slightly different.
I was looking forward to seeing the Eels for quite a long time, I missed a couple of their gigs at the Royal Festival Hall and I was quite surprised to see they were playing Cambridge.
The Indie-(one man)-band Mark Oliver Everett (a.k.a. Mr E.) is touring an Eels greatest hits (and an Eels B-sides and rarities) album.
10 years in his career, Mr. E unfortunate life gave him enough material to write loads of songs. From some clever college-rock following Beck’s footsteps to autobiographical, intimate pearls telling his dramatic misadventures, he used it. I wouldn’t say his production is constantly excellent but the best bits are well worth the toleration of the worst.
Which is the best is subjective and related to your empathy with the man.
Son of a genius scientist involved in some of the most important quantum physics theories of this century, Mark father died in his arms when he was 19. He confessed that moment he realized to be one of the few occasions they had an intimate time together.
In the nineties drama hit the family harder, Mark Everett sister suicide and his mother death of lung cancer would be a difficult moment to go through for anyone.
Music saved Mr E.
Counting about 10 albums among Eels official and solo recordings, if I had to pick one album I would definitely go for Eels second outing: Electro-Shock blues.
It may be I am sympathetic with part of his experience but playing it while reading the lyrics it is the best example of music therapy I can think of.
Mr E. sublimated his sorrow into the songs in order to move on.
Electro-Shock blues is a striking journey into the consequence of loss, it contains one of the best song title ever written Cancer for the Cure and the title song lyrics are revealing:
“Feeling scared today
Write down “I am ok”
A hundred times the doctors say
I am ok
I am ok
I’m not ok”
Cambridge “A night with Eels” it is, in fact, a night with Mr E.
There is no band, just Mark Everett a multi-instrumentalists able to play everything from gran piano to “hammer on radiators”, supported by another multi-instrumentalist.
Listening to stripped down versions, the songs reveal the versatility of their structure and the quality of their substance.
I always loved Mark Everett voice, the gig shows his class as musician, which I undervalued until that night.
Interchangeable from guitar to piano to drums, exchanging instruments with his pal even during the same song, he enjoys the different settings always delivering remarkable versions of his tunes.
The pick of the night is definitely his early hit Novocaine for the Soul played at the drum which merged into Zeppelin’s cover of Good Times, Bad Times. Excellent.