Listen to this track by Californian musical concern as led by Mark Oliver Everett (or ‘E’ just to make things simple), Eels. It’s “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues”, a single released in February of 2000 and later to appear on the album Daisies of the Galaxy as a bonus track. His record company, apparently, insisted on it.
The song itself is a glorious three chord wonder, with the titular Mr. E providing his signature Eeyoresque voice to a song that is defiantly optimistic, co-written with Dust Brother Michael Simpson. The song charted in the top 20 in the UK. So, goddamn right indeed. The song would also appear on movie soundtracks for the films Road Trip, and Charlie Bartlett.
The optimism to be found here is in some ways to be contrasted by what had preceded it, namely Electro-Shock Blues which is considered to be E’s strongest artistic statement, and perhaps one of the best records of the 1990s to boot. That record was a loose concept record around the theme of death and mourning, in part inspired by the passing of Everette’s sister, mother, and a number of other family members and friends in close succession.
Needless to say, “Mr E’s Beautiful Blues” is the sound of a man emerging from a darkened room and outside into the sunlight, perhaps a little bit rumpled, squinting, and sore. But, alive, aware, and ready to move on. Even still, there remains to be a hint of mourning left over from E’s previous release.
There are a couple of nods to E’s earlier mourning period. The cover of the single, and eventually of the album is derived from a series of children’s books which were a part of his mother’s estate. This can be viewed as something of a tribute, or perhaps a clinging memory that is decidedly bittersweet upon reflection. The song is peppered with sooty skies, weeping native Americans, clowns with frowns, avatars and symbols perhaps of troubling times. These are the “blues” that balances out the “beautiful”.
But, otherwise this is a song that shimmers with crunchy, lysergic joy, beginning with a radio tuning into a clear channel, as if dialing back into reality after waking from a dream. And I think too that this is about deciding to face that reality in a specific way.
What this song really communicates is finding a way to make your way forward, no matter what’s happening around you, or even inside you. And that way means deciding the see the sunshine, rather than the sooty sky. It touches on the ability of human beings who manage to simply deal, very often mysteriously so to those around them. Perhaps it’s a mystery to the people themselves, too.
What it doesn’t do, of course, is suggest that struggles, strife, and sadness don’t matter, should be ignored, or papered over with platitudes. If that were true, this wouldn’t be a song of defiance. But, that’s what it is.
Eels has recently released a new record, Wonderful, Glorious. You can buy it right from the Eels official site.