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CD of The Week

Week of 1/31/22

    Eels - Extreme Witchcraft (E Works / PIAS)

    Mark Oliver Everett, simply known as E, has been cranking out soul-bearing alternative rock music for 30 years now. On the 14th album under the Eels moniker, Extreme Witchcraft, E has re-teamed with PJ Harvey collaborator/producer John Parish, whom he worked with on 2001's Souljacker. Clearly, this album will draw nostalgic comparisons to the former, but Extreme Witchcraft is wholly original in that is presents 12 different vignettes of E's palette, full of his self-deprecating wit and deep explorations of emotion, life, love, and pride. Parish's fresh take on E's jams adds layers of instrumentation that give this album a different vibe.

    "Amateur Hour" kicks off the record with a garage rock feel, evoking 60's era Kinks. Some fuzzed-out, bluesy riffs, not too far from a Black Keys album, highlight "Steam Engine" and "Good Night On Earth," while E channels Prince (whose songs he's covered live numerous times) on the funky "Grandfather Clock Strikes Twelve." A groovy Steely Dan-esque organ shuffles through the jazzy "Stumbling Bee" and slide guitar accompanies the (literally) sweet and salty "Strawberries And Popcorn" and shows how sometimes it's good to be free from a relationship, even if your dinner consists of your four-year-old's leftovers. "The Magic" is all about E putting himself out in the world, whether to a potential lover or to anyone who may be listening: "...I'm not your cup of tea, Believe it or not, not everyone loves me... I beg you to open your mind, you may be on the brink of magic."  

    E sounds most like himself on the two closing tracks. "Learning While I Lose" is vintage Eels, and thematically summarizes his outlook on life; always happy to be playing, even if he's not so good at the activity at hand. His inspiration for the title came from playing Words With Friends with someone on the spectrum, who repeatedly destroys him. "I Know You're Right" finds E in full-on apologetic mode, a spot he's found himself too many times in his tumultuous history of relationships, ending the track and album with "I'm a goddamn fool." 

    E is no fool when it comes to being a musician and songwriter, he's consistently crafted quality material for three decades now. As for the future, it is evident that there's more emotional depth for him to mine, in fact, there's no end in sight, much to his dismay and delight.

    Do yourself a favor and catch Eels live at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, PA on May 26th.
    Review by Dave Lindquist

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