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Album: Eels - Extreme Witchcraft | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Eels - Extreme Witchcraft

Album: Eels - Extreme Witchcraft

Domesticity is bittersweet for cursed optimist E

Mr. E’s music examines hellish depths, but always climbs back towards the light. Electro-Shock Blues (1998) was soon redeemed by “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues”, and a trilogy of sometimes feral, wracked albums ended with Tomorrow Morning (2010).

As the hard blows of deaths, disaster and divorce were absorbed, The Deconstruction (2018) even found a kind of faith. All things considered, E’s a remarkably optimistic writer.

Souljacker was, though, a plunge into heavy darkness with Unabomber vibes, coincidentally released in 9/11’s aftermath. PJ Harvey’s frequent collaborator John Parrish produced, and he’s back on Extreme Witchcraft, on a lockdown whim which results in a very different record.

“It was a near perfect morning, the sun was shining, birds making beautiful sounds,” E begins on “Amateur Hour”, echoing the saturated bliss of “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues”. A mellow mid-‘60s freak-out typifies the joy in guitar sounds which follows, as styles are lightly pastiched and layered. A partner’s disarming surrender on the closing “I Know You’re Right” breaks into the sort of brassy rockabilly Elvis and Nancy Sinatra might have swung to on a retina-burning ‘60s TV special. Parish still adds ‘90s production’s faintly digital sheen to the beat music’s fuzz and twang.

And how is E? Maybe inevitably, given last year, this is a homely, lonely, record, born of messing around with his young son, and, it seems, mourning his divorce. “Now it’s like you’re always out of town,” he sighs on the subtly melancholy “Strawberries and Popcorn”. “No one to hold me tight…understanding my fears and my dreams.” Ex-marital life sounds like one long lockdown, school and structure out forever; stupid snacks till you’re sick. The slow-burning, hangdog plea of “So Anyway”, with its foot-shuffling keyboards, aches with resigned loss. “Stumbling Bee” makes a glimpse of a bee stunned by LA’s winter into a metaphor for a busted heart.

“What Is Isn’t” is a rare eruption of defiance, harking back to Souljacker in its bracing roar, as the contemporary excuse for indifference, “It is what it is”, is shredded and tossed aside. Extreme Witchcraft is more often brisk and breezy, minor-key and, by Eels’ high standards, minor league; a major songwriter kicking back at home, taking notes and biding time, avoiding major changes. It’s sad, but familiar, the resignation to circumstance running deep.

All things considered, E’s a remarkably optimistic writer


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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