Eels - Tomorrow Morning

by Pete Sykes Rating:7.5 Release Date:2010-08-23

Indie music's pre-eminent misanthrope and misery-guts Mark Everett comes here to the end of his trilogy . But where 2009's Hombre Lobo was lusty and volatile, and this year's End Times was doleful and depressed, Tomorrow Morning is uncharacteristically suffused with hope and warmth. This is unfamiliar territory for Everett; indeed it's probably his most optimistic and pleasant record since 2000's Daisies of the Galaxy. It also finds Everett in notably more experimental mood than the straightforward rock of Hombre Lobo or the simple acoustic guitars of End Times. It's an electronic album, and the careful beats and patchwork of sounds - from the distorted Bond-theme strings on 'This is Where it Gets Good' to the snatches of theramin on 'The Man' - give the record a playfulness and a lightness of touch that makes it a pleasure to listen to.

Not that Tomorrow Morning is all about gimmickry and games; Everett's songwriting touch has not deserted him, but the different sonic approach gives the tracks a more nuanced and gently complex feel. 'The Morning' in particular is soft and lovely, bubbles of synth rippling to the surface of a drifting ballad. Better still is the fabulous 'Baby Loves Me', on the surface a bright and breezy paean to new love, but still simmering with the kind of sarcastic misanthropy ('Record company hates me/The doctor says I'm sick/The bad girls think I'm just too nice/And the nice girls call me dick') that made Everett's name. 'That's Not Her Way' is an atmospheric, peculiar ballad with a gorgeously languid guitar solo in the middle. 'Looking Up' - released as a free download in June - is quite spectacular, opening brilliantly with a grainy piano riff, bass and handclaps and developing into an exhilarating gospel/r&b number, replete with James Brown-style whooping and hollering. Here the production - which makes the track sound like it was recorded in a black church in Chicago in the 1960s - turns a nice song into a joyful stomp. As a pop tune, it's better than anything Eels have released for a long while.

Of course, this is an Eels album, so anyone expecting the reinvention of the wheel should move on. Also, Everett's lyrics - simple and direct, veering only occasionally into sentimentality - are still an acquired taste, as is his voice - although it does sound excellent here, alternately world-weary and sweetly innocent. But his use of new textures and sounds makes this, if not a constantly surprising record, then at least a constantly interesting record. It's unlikely to shift millions, as the band's debut, Beautiful Freak did, and it's unlikely to win many new fans; you'd probably know by now if you liked Eels anyway. But it does find an excellent songwriter on top, and refreshingly positive, form.

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