"Blinking Lights and Other Revelations"
Give Mark Oliver Everett, aka Eels, credit for defying the zeitgeist: He's made an album that rejects the iPod-ification of contemporary music. The only problem is that a two-CD, 33-song concept album about pain and loss is exactly the sort of project that encourages passive listeners to become active editors. "Blinking Lights and Other Revelations" contains a half-dozen fully realized numbers, but also several inessential interludes and a surfeit of unadorned laments that are just too dire for repeated exposure.
Just how many times does anyone want to hear the chief Eel sing, for example, "Mama couldn't love me" or "Daddy was a drunk /A most unpleasant man"?
Everett is one of those California production-pop masters known for swaddling his bad thoughts in good vibrations. He does that again on this set, if only occasionally. The upbeat "Going Fetal" rewrites "What I Like About You" as an ode to psychological regression; "Sweet L'il Thing" finds spun-sugar comfort in romance; and "Hey Man (Now You're Really Living)" offers a bouncy endorsement of extreme emotional vulnerability. But most of the songs are stripped-bare ballads, a dubious choice since Everett is less expressive as a singer and lyricist than as a composer and arranger. That's why this album is likely to be widely excerpted or condensed -- even if that outcome just makes Everett more glum than he was before he wrote such downers as "Ugly Love" and "Suicide Life."
-- Mark Jenkins
Appearing Tuesday at the 9:30 Club.