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Eels is predominantly the work of one man, Mark Oliver Everett (often known as Mr E or just plain 'E'), who lives & works in California, and has a rotating cast of band members. Following a couple of solo albums, Eels the band released their first album Beautiful Freak in 1996. Their music has frequently been featured on film soundtracks over the years, for instance the first three Shrek films and Shrek the Halls each had at least one of their songs included, and Yes Man also features a number of their songs.
This album features collaborations with regular contributor Koool G Murder (guitar and bass), Knuckles (drums), The Amy Davies Choir and the Tomorrow Morning Orchestra.
Released in August 2010, Tomorrow Morning is the third and final entry in a trilogy. The first album in the series, Hombre Lobo, focused on the obsessive pursuit of The Girl. End Times was a break-up album, but also a rumination on how age and experience changes your perceptions and your ability to cope with emotional stress. Tomorrow Morning brings with it a welcome sea change!
Before the official release of this album, some reviewers who'd been sent early copies were branding this a 'happy album', and finding it hard to cope with the idea that the ever-introspective E could do such a thing. I was a bit concerned - you come to expect a certain sort of song from Eels, or at least a certain feel, and that's a large part of the attraction of the band. Well, it may be more optimistic, but it's certainly not a mindless party album. I'd describe it more as an album of contentment and looking forward to the future.
Musically there's a definite return to a much earlier experimental electronic sound, some people have drawn parallels to the sound that they had in their first studio album Beautiful Freak . It's certainly not dated though, as in my opinion the album sounds bright and fresh right from the start
1. IN GRATITUDE FOR THIS MAGNIFICENT DAY
Short introductory instrumental, electronic atmospheric noises, sets the (very different) mood for the rest of the album.
2. I'M A HUMMINGBIRD
Strong synth chord sequence, E's voice over them. A curious but confident number, which in a surreal way expresses the happiness he feels, and how all of his life, unbeknown to him, was leading to this. There's no percussion, just keyboards, some strings, effects and E, but striking enough to carry itself.
3. THE MORNING
The electronica continues, as does the optimism, looking forward to maximising the coming day, and forgetting yesterday. It's very short, but it's a real feel-good song.
4. BABY LOVES ME
The beat returns! As does the guitar - even so, the sounds are still processed, including E's voice. Lyrically, there's a list in each verse of negative stuff that's plagued his day, but each one's countered by a victorious "My baby loves me!" Many years ago, he wrote a solo song with a list like this but a less than happy outcome: "The Only Thing I Care About" from E's 1993 album Broken Toy Shop. Good to hear that things have turned around!
5. SPECTACULAR GIRL
Starting with what sounds like a drum machine, a keyboard melody comes in, then E's voice - a slightly more melancholic sounding song initially, but it's a great love song, an adoration of someone who he loves and allows to be herself.
6. WHAT I HAVE TO OFFER
E's selling himself here - he runs through all of his good points to the accompaniment of guitar, strings and keyboard. From the description it may sound a bit arrogant, but it's quite a sweet song really.
7. THIS IS WHERE IT GETS GOOD
I'd agree with the title - this is my favourite track on the album, it's almost where it all kicks off. In a sense , lyrically the previous songs have been the relationship's preamble. This is the real beginning, and following the three sung verses there's quite a long, dramatically twisting and turning instrumental passage of drums, bass and strings, where the rest is left to our imaginations...
8. AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE
Another short instrumental piece, keys taking the melody, acoustic guitar and noises off.
9. OH SO LOVELY
Rhythm is provided by minimal percussion and guitar, all sorts of instruments give almost a fairground feel to this really very happy song, celebrating a huge shift in his life, having rung a few changes and made a real effort to move forward to a new start.
10. THE MAN
This is great, and typical E - another list song, this time all of the people coming out in the morning to give their respect to The Man. My favourite, and I can imagine this happening, is "The old homeless guy who smells like pee/stops talking nonsense and says "morning E" ". It moves along at a steady walking pace, as you can imagine him doing in the song, with sleigh bells, organ, guitar and drums, with the odd bit of tubular bells for good measure.
11. LOOKING UP
A full-swing gospel choir-type song, chronicling the changes in his life and how things are now all 'looking up'. Try not to swing along & clap while you listen to this one!
12. THAT'S NOT HER WAY
A slow track, drums, organ, guitar and the tubular bells again, as he goes through all of the things that other girls might criticise or brag about. But she's not like that, and he praises her uniqueness.
13. I LIKE THE WAY THIS IS GOING
A sweet, acoustic guitar-driven, unusually for this album! He thinks about all of the things that he enjoys about his lady, about the present and hopes for the future.
14. MYSTERY OF LIFE
In a way this sums up and signs off all three albums - each verse starts with a puzzle, leads to a line or two on E's earlier life and problems, and ends with the positive outcome, summed up in the last three lines: "no more sorrow and no more strife / always some daylight following the night / good morning mystery of life". Musically it's a song that slips along on an offbeat, in a minor key, with keyboard and bass, and a big layered chorus featuring the Amy Davies Choir. Another one of my favourite tracks!
The album, like the preceding two, comes in several different formats, mine is the two-disc digipak, and the second disc here is again a collection of four bonus songs. Only the last track really seems to have any connection with the rest of the album, but they're a good bunch despite that.
DISC 2 (BONUS DISC)
1. SWIMMING LESSON
Acoustic guitar and voice begin this song about being taught to suppress emotions and aspirations. I believe that the swimming lesson in the title probably refers to E's father literally throwing his kids into the water and letting them sink or swim, although he gives it a negative spin: "And if you feel that you can't swim/ when you're thrown in the lake/ just watch the boats passing by you/ as you slip under their wake, again" Typically, the mood of the music is a bright and cheery background to what is a depressing set of lyrics.
2. ST. ELIZABETH STORY
Again, guitar and vocal to start, this song seems to refer to a long-term hospital stay, and trying to get to a dance that sounds as though it might well be off limits to him and his fellow invalids. Quite a sweet song, with a melancholic undertone.
3. LET'S RUIN JULIE'S BIRTHDAY
This one is very reminiscent of E's early material, twinkling xylophone, lively pace, the lyrics are a kid's revenge for being left off the invite list for a party that all the cool kids are at. "It's not a party if I'm not there/just her stupid friends and a birthday cake"
4. FOR YOU
Vocal and electric guitar, a sweet and simple song to finish, E expresses his intention to always be there for his lady when she needs him.
I think that this is my favourite album of the three, not just because it's a more cheerful album, but also because of the overall sound and feel - I enjoy experimental electronic stuff, and here it's woven perfectly into E's trademark melodic song-writing complementing it beautifully. His lyrics are as heartfelt as ever and I find it a thoroughly enjoyable and uplifting listen. Heartily recommended!
I've previously reviewed both Hombre Lobo and End Times, you don't have to look too far down the list ;)
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 In Gratitude For This Magnificent Day
2 I'm A Hummingbird
3 The Morning
4 Baby Loves Me
5 Spectacular Girl
6 What I Have To Offer
7 This Is Where It Gets Good
8 After The Earthquake
9 Oh So Lovely
10 The Man
11 Looking Up
12 That's Not Her Way
13 I Like The Way This Is Going
14 Mystery Of Life
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 Swimming Lesson
2 St. Elizabeth Story
3 Let's Ruin Julie's Birthday
4 For You