February 18th, 2013 | by MARK STOCK Music | Posted In: Deep Cuts

Deep Cuts: Mark Oliver Everett of Eels, "The Turnaround"

     
Tags: Eels
eelsMark Oliver Everett. - IMAGE: eelstheband.com.

Mark Oliver Everett, a.k.a. E, has experienced a Shakespearian amount of tragedy in his 49 years. But the Eels frontman only dwells for so long. His newest effort, Wonderful, Glorious, shows a stronger, wiser, thicker-skinned E, fastened to an infectious brand of optimism both lyrically and musically. 

The trilogy Eels released from 2009-2010 tackled an emotional spectrum in wonderfully diverse ways: with Hombre Loco, a hard-rock, nearly animalistic declaration of new times ahead; with End Times, a somber and honest dissection of failed relationships; and with Tomorrow Morning, redemption. E has stalled and restarted so many times it’s just about impossible not to compare the musician to a trusty old pickup. 

As E sings on his newest record, “I’m not knocked out but I’m on the ropes.” Ten records in, Everett has mastered the art of honesty in music. Wonderful, Glorious is one of the California band’s brightest releases, sure. But the record still draws from the darker corners that have contributed so much to Eels' impressive, two decade long catalogue of highly transparent alt-rock. The interpersonal, wafting, dimly piano-lit track “The Turnaround" is the perfect example. It’s like a solo shot of whisky at last call, with a corresponding toast that says, if only to yourself, “it’s time to change, for the better.”

The Song



The Lyrics

Another morning in the evening,

Times still on the floor

And I don’t even know her name,

Or if she lives here,

Had enough, but I wan’t more.


I don’t remember how I got here,

And how long it’s been now.

A day or two, maybe more.


Home alone, I spent the days

Never wanted anyway

I always bit the hand that beat me,

And they wrote me off.

It was easy not to care.


Never trusted anyone,

Don’t see why I should now.

Fate’s unblinking, never fair.


You’re all gonna be sorry,

When I leave town.

And get it together,

For the turnaround.


Six bucks in my pocket,

The shoes on my feet.

The first step is out the door,

Then onto the street.


Six bucks in my pocket,

The shoes on my feet.

The first step is out the door,

Then onto the street.


Six bucks in my pocket,

The shoes on my feet.

The first step is out the door,

Then onto the street.


Six bucks in my pocket,

The shoes on my feet.

The first step is out the door,

Then onto the street.


The Interview

WW: There’s never been a shortage of honesty in your work, but this track stood out to me as perhaps the rawest on the record. Does “The Turnaround” reflect where you are now? 

E: It's not my story, per se. I was thinking about a character who has hit rock bottom but makes the decision to head in a direction that may get him out of there. But I can certainly relate to aspects of the character's story.

Overall, Wonderful, Glorious offers pretty uplifting, or at least self-trusting, themes. “The Turnaround” deviates somewhat. Does the song refer to a certain event or just a broader experiential conclusion?

To me, "The Turnaround" is very uplifting. Because, ultimately, he's making the decision to make his life better. And we all know you can't help anyone who doesn't want to help themselves. So, to me, what could be more positive?

I like the internal tension in this song. The listener can really feel it. It feels like a super-soulful negotiation with one’s self. Are you reconciling with yourself here? 

I'm just imagining I'm in the shoes of this guy. If it works, it's because there's enough about his situation that I can relate to. That doesn't mean the exact situation, but an emotional truth that i have experienced as well, I suppose.

By the song’s end, a turnaround doesn’t at all seem inevitable. In fact, the reoccurring chorus at the end suggests the main character is talking himself into it. Is this a fair interpretation?

That's not how I see it. To me, it's a happy ending to the story simply because he has made the key choice to try to turn the negatives in his life into positives. If something isn't working in your life you can't change anybody else. You can only change yourself.  He may or may not succeed, but that's a whole other song.

You paint the turnaround as a step-by-step process (“The first step is out the door/Then onto the street”). Is it ongoing or is there an end spot? If so, what does it look like?

It's just the first step of many. But it's the most important step. With that step he has a chance. Before that step, he never has a chance. 

There’s a reoccurring feeling in this record that you’ve overcome, that you’re tired of being complacent, that despite being against the ropes, you’re going to fight. I’ve read that Wonderful, Glorious is new territory for you in that the band didn’t have a definitive production plan. Are you fighting the method of creating a record or something larger and different all together? 

I think you may be onto something there. I wasn't aware of it at the time, but looking back I can see that some of the lyrics about being a fighter may have had to do with me being worried about how it was all going to turn out without any plan up front. It was a great experience and lesson for me to just see what happens sometimes.

You’re 10 records in now. Will there be less control in the studio after the Wonderful, Glorious project or do you prefer more of a blueprint approach?

I think that really depends on each case. Some records need to be more structured ahead of time and some don't.

There’s a coolness about this record, a resoluteness that comes both assertively (“Bombs Away,” “New Alphabet”) and quietly (“The Turnaround,” “You’re My Friend”). Is this time-earned wisdom at work or, to shamelessly borrow from an old cliche, simply not sweating the little things?

Thanks. About the coolness. I'd like to think it's time-earned wisdom. I've been through enough shit in my life that has taught me what and what not to worry too much about, and as you get older you are able to see more clearly who and what matters in your life. That's wisdom, right?

SEE IT: Eels play Aladdin Theater, 3017 SE Milwaukie Ave., with Nicole Atkins, on Monday, Feb. 18. 8 pm, $28.50 advance, $30 day of show. Under 21 permitted with legal guardian.

 
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