Desperation—and Hope—Shine Through on Eels’ Latest

The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett
E Works/Pias

The latest in his ongoing series of unsparing self-portraits, The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett follows a familiar formula, but is deeply affecting regardless. Everett’s lovely chamber-pop ballads (plus the occasional rocker) offer candid snapshots of his psychic wounds, often self-inflicted, made all the more poignant by his gruff yet tender voice, suggesting a confused yet well-meaning soul struggling to achieve a more enlightened state.

If the desperation and neediness of songs like “Agatha Chang” and “Series of Misunderstandings” can verge on uncomfortable, Everett also tries to strike a note of hope amid the lamentations. Confirmed Eels fans will want to spring for the two-disc edition, featuring some perfectly good leftovers and live cuts, including a rousing and surprisingly faithful cover of the early Fleetwood Mac classic “Oh Well.”