'Life is funny but not ha ha funny,’ sings E on the new EELS album. Hankies at the ready for the highs and lows of life and death.
Words: Jonathan Trew
'IF YOU PICK UP THIS RECORD IN THE record store and look at the song titles then you might think. “Hmm. this isn‘t the party record I was looking for".‘
Mark Iiverett — better known simply as E — has a point. [ﬁlm-m)- .S'lzm-k Blues. the second album by his band liels. isn't gag-a-moment stuff. '(ioing To Your Funeral Parts I & [1‘ will never fill floors at clubs up and down the country. 'My Descent lnto Madness‘ won‘t become a hands—in- the—air anthem for the chemical generation. ‘Cancer For The Cure‘ is unlikely to be on too many turntables as the clock ticks towards midnight on 31 December. I999.
But then [-i has had a hard time of
late. Since the release of liels' debut album Beautiful Freak in 1996. E‘s
sister has comitted suicide. several of
his friends have died. his mother is dying of lung cancer and his landlord has died of cancer. E is very close to being the last surviving member of his immediate family.
It‘s easy to understand if li isn‘t feeling l()()‘/( chipper; but by contrast — and despite the song titles — his new album has a vaguely optimistic feel. While he may not be whistling ‘Always Look ()n The Bright Side‘.
18 THE lIST 24 Sep—8 Oct 1998
he‘s by no means humming the death march either. Instead. Iz'lm'Im-Slzm‘k Blues is the sound of someone coming to terms with life and life ending.
‘I guess it’s always an ongoing thing. accepting things that happen to you and the things that happen to people you love.‘ considers 1%. ‘In a lot of ways. this record is about growing up and part of growing up is realising that there are some things you can‘t do anything about. so you might as well accept them.’
The idea of ii accepting anything will be a strange concept to anyone who has followed liels‘ press coverage over the past couple of years. [-i feels that the British press has never quite grasped what he‘s about and at best he has often been portrayed as defensive. at worst he‘s been branded a neurotic. whining Yank. ()pposition and conﬂict rather than acceptance have been the defining characteristics. The new album indicates that ii may have discovered ways of going round obstacles. rather than trying to drive straight through them. Making the LP seems to have helped the healing process.
'lt was cathartic.‘ explains li. ‘lt wasn't really painful to make at all. It felt good to make it to me. It‘s kinda
'It's kinda like an artist's feeble attempt to get some control over an uncontrollable situation. It's what the old blues singers did.’ E
like an artist‘s feeble attempt to get sotne control over an uncontrollable situation. It’s what the old blues singers did. That's why it’s called l:‘/(’(‘II‘()-.S'/1()('/\' Blues. lt’s trying to make something nice out of something not-so—nice. It‘s very painful to live through these situations but it’s not painful to try and make something nice out of them.‘
E‘s emotional honesty and articulate explanations appeal to a certain type of people: people who feel they have something in common with [5.
‘The fans that I identify with are the ones that are kind of . . . they're smart and they‘re frustrated maybe and they feel disenfranchised. They don‘t feel comfortable] Ii opines. “I'm here to say . . . that there‘s hope. heh. heh. heh. Just a little shred. just a little keychain ﬂashlight at the end of the tunnel‘
So E doesn't believe the only light at the end of the tunnel is the oncoming train'.’
‘I have subscribed to that theory in the past.‘ he admits. ‘But I‘ve grown out of it. I hope.‘
Eels play Glasgow City Hall, Fri 25 Sep. Electra-Shock Blues is out now on Dreamworks.