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Eels: Perform The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett (E Works)

Performing autobiographically-inspired songs by Mark Oliver Everett, cautionary or otherwise, is pretty much what Eels have always done. The man known to all and sundry as E is the unique core of the band - its lyrical brain and musical muscle, often its broken heart and troubled mind - regardless of the collaborative limbs he adds or takes away as he sees fit.

This latest album was recorded along with the same set of band members as last year's Wonderful, Glorious, but you wouldn't realise it at first listen; it's stripped-back and gentle where its predecessor was fuzzed-up and bluesy.

Long-time Eels fans, whose commitment stretches back over 10 other studio albums to 1996's Beautiful Freak, might think they can now second-guess the direction E's chord paths will take or the key-change tricks he's likely to play. True enough, but it's the arrangements here that make the difference.

Lockdown Hurricane develops into orchestral pop of old-school magnitude (compare it to the electric piano solo version on the Deluxe Edition), while the chamber approach on Answers delivers more poignancy than 2006's Eels With Strings live album, and Gentlemen's Choice exists one door down from a Tom Waits bar-room piano ballad. Still wonderful, still glorious.

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