If older sisters are good for anything, it's that they usually have a great record collection which opens a wondrous door for younger siblings. Also, they often let their kid brother play their guitar after they've lost interest in it. That's what happened to Virginia native Mark Oliver Everett, otherwise known as E.
Losing his father at an early age, getting expelled from school and arrested, it looked as though E was headed for a troubled life. But a budding interest in music helped turn him around. Soon he was writing songs and recording them on home equipment. In his early twenties E made the trek to L.A. Signed with Polydor, E released two albums that went virtually unnoticed, '92's "A Man Called E" and '93's "Broken Toy Shop." A tour opening for Tori Amos, to support "A Man Called E," was about the only positive result.
E then formed the Eels with bassist Tommy Walter and drummer Butch Norton before moving to Dreamworks. There the group recorded "Beautiful Freak" which contained the somber '96 hit "Novocaine For The Soul."
As so often happens in music, as well as real life, it's just when things are going right, for once, that tragedy strikes. Both E's mother and sister passed away. To compound the misery Walter bailed. E pressed on but his mood was evident in the dark sounding "Electro-Shock Blues." Despite contributions from T-Bone Burnett the album failed to connect. A brief tour with new bassist Adam Siegel preceded a return to the studio to record '00's "Daisies Of The Galaxy." This effort included R.E.M.'s Peter Buck but like it's predecessor failed to resonate with the public. Undaunted E put together The Eels Orchestra, a six man band of multi-instrumentalists for a world tour. The live "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" was issued via the group's official website.
"Souljacker" with help from producer/musician John Parish, became the Eels fourth studio album. Also onboard was new bassist/synthesizer player Kool G Murder. "Shootenanny" hit in '03. A number of E side projects followed including an indie film soundtrack. The group resurfaced in '05 with "Blinking Lights And Other Revelations."
Usually, any group with a history gets a retrospective ("greatest hits" or "best of"). But in '08, the Eels had two. "Meet the Eels: Essential Eels Vol. I.," spanned the group's first decade and focused on the singles. "Useless Trinkets" contained B-sides and '06 Lollapalooza shows. Also that year, nine of the band's songs, including "Man Up" (a new track), appeared on the soundtrack of the lackluster Jim Carrey film, Yes Man.
The Eels seventh studio album, "Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs Of Desire," came out in '09. "Hombre lobo" is Spanish for 'wolf man' or 'werewolf'. "Fresh Blood" was the lead single.
While busy promoting "Hombre Lobo," the Eels issued the live EP "The Myspace Transmission Session 2009." At the same time they announced that their next studio album would be "End Times." Not exactly the most upbeat title, it referenced themes of broken love and E's recent divorce. The set arrived three months later - January, '10.
The group's second release that year, "Tomorrow Morning," was described as "final installment of a trilogy" ("Hombre Lobo" and 'End Times" were the first two).
The band then went on its first tour since '07 with the line-up of E, multi-instrumentalist Jeff "The Chet" Lyster, bassist Koool G Murder, drummer Knuckles and guitarist P-Boo.
The Eels 10th studio album, "Wonderful Glorious" was released in '12 with "The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett" rolling out two years later. Shortly after the latter dropped the Eels were part of an unusual pairing.
Former Journey frontman Steve Perry sang with the Eels over the '14 Memorial Weekend at the Fitzgerald Theater in Minneapolis. They performed Journey hits "Open Arms" and "Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'" plus the Eels "It's a Motherfucker." It turned out E and Perry had a long friendship and it was Perry's idea to make a guest appearance featuring Journey songs he hadn't touched in 18 years. Less than a week later, Perry returned for an encore at the Eels Washington, D.C. show at the Lincoln Theatre. For that appearance they added a cover of Sam Cooke's "Only Sixteen."
1996 Beautiful Freak
1998 Electro-Shock Blues
2000 Daisies Of The Galaxy
2005 Blinking Lights and Other Revelations
2009 Hombre Lobo
2010 End Times
2010 Tomorrow Morning
2013 Wonderful, Glorious
2014 The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett
"Novocaine For The Soul" from "Beautiful Freak" brought the Eels international recognition.
One suspects that even without the tragedy that has marred E's life he'd still be a morose character.
When not venturing into Punk or Garage Rock, E expressively meanders through ballads - which actually sound closer to diary readings. It's the perfect thing to put on when the world is bearing down and you're seeking commiseration.