Friday, 9 October 2009

The Importance of Mr E

When Mark Oliver Everett released his solo debut, ‘A Man Called E’, way back in 1992 he went almost un-noticed. The man who was born in Virginia in 1963 had witnessed and dabbled in things no ordinary person should have by this age but they were nevertheless the experiences that moulded one of the finest songwriters in the world today.

Everett, better known as E, moved to Hollywood to try and make it as a singer, his debut album was rewarded with a tour support for Tori Amos and was followed up by ‘Broken Toy Shop’ before he formed his full band, Eels, who then released the 1996 album,’ Beautiful Freak’.

The album itself was an extraordinary bucket of charm, sadness and torment which produced the hit single, ‘Novocaine For The Soul,’ an immensely intense piece of work that had a slow burning melancholic feel full of balladry anguish. Anguish and torment is a recurring them in Eels’ music and this is not without reason.

“My father never, ever said anything to me about his theories. I was in the same house with him for at least 18 years but he was a total stranger to me.”

E explains his relationship with his father, Hugh Everett III, in ‘Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives’.

E has led a tragic life, including finding the corpse of his father at the age of 18, his sister committing suicide followed two years later by his mother losing a long and painful struggle to lung cancer. The singer/songwriter has also dealt with the untimely demise one of his cousins, an air hostess working with her husband on the plane that hit the Pentagon on 9/11.

Not a particularly happy decade for Mr E then but after the deaths of his mother and sister he wrote and released ‘Electro-Shock Blues’, a widely acclaimed effort with dark themes and sounds, thought to reflect the songwriters grief. ‘Cancer For The Cure’ is considered to be the remembrance of his late mother, as with many others on this album, including ‘Hospital Food.’ Everett delves into the world of his song writing and sorrow with his heavily acclaimed autobiography, ‘Things The Grandchildren Should Know’. Here is explains how and why songs were written, what life was like for him as a child and why he thinks John Legend is a twat.

E has remained open to projects outside of his musical career, his autobiography in particular being a fine example of that, but he also played a heavy part in the making of the BBC documentary ‘Parallel World, Parallel Lives’, a film about his estranged quantum physicist father, Hugh Everett III. The making of the film was a trip down memory lane for Everett and not an entirely happy one and said of his father:

“My father never, ever said anything to me about his theories. I was in the same house with him for at least 18 years but he was a total stranger to me. He was in his own parallel universe. He was a physical presence, like the furniture, sitting there jotting down crazy notations at the dining room table night after night.”

Despite the experimenting outside of his song writing, E’s full attention has always been his music and is known for his varying approach, both live and in the studio. To follow up the release of double album ‘Blinking Lights And Other Revelations’ Eels toured as a full band, playing old and new but mostly in a way his fans had never seen before. They brought in metal sheets to bend and create string effects, trash cans as drums and made the entire set look like an old man’s front room which E made his own by wandering between instruments with a cane (for nothing more than show), a tumbler of whisky and a large cigar.

“I didn't want to write a bunch of blatantly autobiographical songs about a lonely old indie rocker.”

E on ‘Hombre Lobo’

Since then, E has moved on and returned with this year’s ‘Hombre Lobo’, the return of the ‘Dog Faced Boy’ we met in 2001 when ‘Souljacker’ was released:

"I didn't want to write a bunch of blatantly autobiographical songs about a lonely old indie rocker, so I thought it would be more interesting if it came from this character," E said in a statement before the release of the band’s seventh studio album.

The album is packed electric guitars and blues motifs with titles such as ‘The Look You Give That Guy’, ‘The Longing’ and ‘What’s A Fella Gotta Do’, it showed that E has replaced his lonely longings with pangs of desire.

Despite the seven albums, a best of and live albums, Eel’s most famous songs are probably the first ‘band single’ ‘Novocaine For The Soul’, ‘Mr E’s Beautiful Blues’ (from the film, ‘Road Trip’) and ‘My Beloved Monster’ which featured on the DreamWorks smash, ‘Shrek’.

The reason this man is so important is because he champions whatever he wants to do, he’ll rhyme as and when he wants and will trial new sounds and vibes. Outside of music he is admirable in ways that most will never have to be, with a life full of loss he has turned it all to his gain and will forever be the American Werewolf.


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