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Alternative and Indie

EELS

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About

Eclectic band that mixes alt pop, indie, folk and electronics with emotionally direct lyrics and a dash of humour

Buy Earth To Dora by Eels here

Eels are a band as elusive as their aquatic namesakes. Noisy and abrasive one minute, sweetly naïve the next, the Californian outfit has always kept listeners on their toes, right from the very first notes of the music box, trip-hop and alt-rock casserole that begat their enduring 90s hit Novocaine For The Soul.

Frontman Mark Oliver Everett (commonly known simply as E) had two wonderful but commercially underperforming solo records under his belt when he came to form Eels with Tommy Walter and Butch Norton. The trio released their debut album Beautiful Freak in 1996 to critical acclaim, MTV giving the video for lead single Novocaine For The Soul serious airtime.

The ensuing years were anything but plain sailing. E’s mother died of cancer, followed quickly by his sister's death by suicide, leaving him the sole living member of his family. This loomed large over the band’s understandably darker and emotionally devastating second album Electro-Shock Blues, which dealt plainly with loss on songs such as Cancer For The Cure, The Medication Is Wearing Off and Elizabeth On The Bathroom Floor.

When the band returned with their third album Daisies For The Galaxy, even its brighter disposition gave the distinct impression of a man still on a road to recovery, although the sprightliness of Mr E's Beautiful Blues and I Like Birds suggested much progress had been made.

E occupied himself with various outlets over the following years, touring Daisies with a mini “orchestra”, recording an album as alter ego MC Honky and providing the score for the Billy Bob Thornton film Levity. When Eels finally delivered a new album, they were virtually unrecognisable both aurally and aesthically, thanks to E’s bushy beard and impenetrable sunglasses. Souljacker sounded drastically unlike Daisies, E mixing up the orchestral and beat-driven perfection of Fresh Feeling with the searing guitars of Dog-Faced Boy and Souljacker Pt.1.

If Eels was just a pseudonym for the band's leader by 2003’s Souljacker, then E leant even further into that for 2005’s expansive Blinking Lights And Other Revelations, an album that followed his thoughts and musical moods wherever they might lead. Two years later, he detailed his career and troubled family life in his acclaimed memoir Things The Grandchildren Should Know.

With an established and devoted fanbase and no zeitgeist to capture, Eels seemed freed to continue following E’s erratic and prolific muse. After greatest hits and B-sides collections, the band returned to studio albums with 2009’s Hombre Lobo, a concept album about the desires of a hirsute man stuck between loathing and loving the things that set him apart from the world.

End Times came early the following year, an almost uncomfortably intimate album about the disintegration of a relationship. The surprisingly electronic Tomorrow Morning, the band’s third album in just over a year, acted as a counterpoint to End Times, finding the sliver of light at the end of despair.

E continued to bare his soul in song through 2013’s Wonderful Glorious and 2014’s hushed, laidback The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett. After a break during which E contemplated retirement, the band returned to electronic textures again on 2018’s anxious, lovelorn The Deconstruction.

Earth To Dora arrived in the middle of a pandemic, but found E in more optimistic form, hoping for better times on Are We Alright Again, a song he described as a pandemic daydream. While the pandemic put paid to immediate touring plans, Eels eventually announced UK dates for March 2022 as part of their world tour.