Published Apr 22, 2014Being an Eels fan really hinges on whether or not you buy into the myth of Mark Oliver Everett, a myth Everett himself created over the dozen or so records he's recorded as Eels. Everett's music can be both reflective and reflexive, and the L.A.-based musician tends to be at his best when mixing the two. On The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett, he continues to weave his sad-sack tale but leans heavily on the former, offering few glimpses of Everett's self-deprecating wit.
Cautionary Tales was made after 2010's Tomorrow Morning, but Everett found the material "too uncomfortable" and moved on to the more upbeat Wonderful, Glorious. It's easy to see why: this is a breakup record, although it's not clear if "Agatha Chang," the woman he's forsaken, is real, fictional or a composite of both. There's little room for levity here, not that Everett is wallowing; these songs are pure heart-on-sleeve truisms.
Sonically, the record finds a middle ground between Everett's stark, acoustic-driven material and his more baroque offerings. Those musical flourishes offer a little light in what is otherwise a bit of a downer of a listen. Cautionary Tales works best as a snapshot of Everett's headspace at the time of recording. He's warmed up to the idea of sharing these feelings with the world, but whether the world is ready depends on how willing listeners are to follow him down this path. (PIAS)