There is no doubting that Eels’ tenth album is a solid effort. It’s well crafted, moving from the gritty defiance of the first track ‘Bombs Away’ through the more tender moments which lie at the heart of this album, and ending with more upbeat tracks such as the simple yet uplifting ‘You’re My Friend’. It’s an interesting, enjoyable listen, but the problem is, you know Eels can do so much better, inevitably leading to a nagging sense of disappointment. The chilling moments of their 1998 album Electro Shock Blues did more than bring me close to tears; they put a shiver in my heart. These moments are entirely absent from Wonderful, Glorious, leaving the listener with a set of fairly understated, snarling, occasionally sensitive tunes. Everett’s coarse singing style is in danger of getting tiresome, though the run of more optimistic songs in the middle, especially ‘On the Ropes’, saves the album from actually doing so.
The softer moments of this album are certainly its strongest, with their quiet optimism and gentle guitar riffs. The rebellious, rough style of much of the album is too guarded to be truly powerful, and the aggressive snarl of the guitars grates on the ears, rather than playing on the soul like his previous work. ‘Peach Blossom’, with its rambling monologues halfway through and blaring sound effects is the low point of the album: aimless, dull and repetitive.
E has had a famously tragic life, so it is perhaps not surprising that his best work is to be found in his more melancholy songs. It is wonderful to hear more upbeat music coming from Everett, if this means he is feeling happier. However, on an entirely selfish level, I much prefer listening to his more tortured, emotionally exposed works. Wonderful, Glorious is a good listen but the overall result is slightly
flat. That said, real sincerity lies behind that gruff voice, and it’s a joy to hear Everett singing a more upbeat tune.