Mark Everett's new album "Tomorrow Morning" showcases just about every little talent he has up his sleeve, and comes away as one of his best albums he's ever released. It harks back to the beautifully arranged "Blinking Lights..." album with lots of strings and classical arrangements, but also finds time to let in electro beats and synthesizer stabs to further beautify his odd landscape. At the core of the album, though, is Mr. E's classic songwriting and heartfelt lyrics, which are always showcasing his great sense of humor, and illustrating his huge heart pumping on his sleeve.
"Tomorrow Morning" is meant to be part three of a 3 album trilogy starting with "Hombre Lobo" and followed by "End Times". Both of those albums are considerably dark in their scope and ultimately hard listens to sit through. Mr. E never apologizes for changing things up for his albums, and while there are beautiful moments on both of those albums, the tone and energy of them were never to my liking. I certainly don't mind dark music, and actually prefer it most times, but "Hombre Lobo" and "End Times" were moody and depressing not only in content, but in general ideas. Mr. E seemed to be holding back the gems you know he is capable of for a brighter day. Thankfully, "Tomorrow Morning", literally and sonically, is that sunny conclusion.
The album starts out very reminiscent of "Blinking Lights..." with opening instrumental "In Gratitude Of This Magnificence" followed by "I'm A Hummingbird" with lyrics like "I'm a hummingbird, beautiful and free". The strings swell behind him leaving a melancholy in their wake, and exposing Mr. E's lyrics to the vulnerability that makes his best songs so memorable. It's a great way to start the album.
Four tracks in, "Baby Loves Me" comes crashing through the door with its funky electronic beats and synthesizer blurbs. Mr. E laments that his teacher says he's "not too bright, but baby loves me". As always, E has no problem showing his self-deprecating sense of humor, and the song bubbles over with humor and heart. One thing that strikes the listener with this song, though, is E's production skills with electronics. Those who remember Mr. E's alter ego, M.C. Honky, will certainly delight in the funkiness and danceability of this song. The drum patterns are admirable and show another side of E's musical range and talents.
A few songs later Mr. E gives us one of his most beautifully written songs he's ever done with "What I Have To Offer". It's rhythm and pace reminds me a lot of "Railroad Man", and he keeps his lyrics simple and heartfelt with lines like "I've got a pleasin' disposition, and I don't care much for football or fishin'. But you know I'm all full of love for you". This ballad comes complete with strings and subtle guitar for maximum effectiveness, and it really is one of his best tracks ever.
After this track comes the most standout song on the album with "This Is Where It Gets Good". It starts out with a simple electro beat and synth line, and gets funkier and funkier by the second. His M.C. Honky roots start to creep in again here, and this song is, by far, his closest foray into dance music he's ever ventured. It's a fantastic track, and Mr. E is not afraid to throw down the funk and get crazy. His talent for electronic music production and sampling make one yearn for another M.C. Honky album, and after hearing this song I really hope he decides to release some more music under this pseudonym.
Yet another big highlight is the track "Looking Up". Its a straight up gospel-in-the-church song with background singers screaming "Looking up!!", tambourines and handclaps. This song is begging to be played live. E sings "I used to be cruel..kind of a tool..like a damn fool." At first the song sounds gimmicky, but once it hits its stride you can't help but succumb to the power and energy it produces.
"That's Not Her Way" comes next, and it sways back and forth like a soulful Marvin Gaye track as he sings "she could stop and remind me of all the ways she brightens my day, but that's not her way". Hearing lines like this mixed together with a funky guitar line and lazy drumbeat just makes one grin, and the album continues to unfold in an extremely satisfying way.
Mark Oliver Everett is brilliant simply because he doesn't do what I expect. He has albums that I just plain don't like, and I love him for taking chances. Most of the time it works, though, and "Tomorrow Morning" is quickly becoming my favorite Eels album. I've always wished E would take his immense songwriting talents and mix them with his M.C. Honky style, and he has finally done that with this album. He goes from lush ballads to electro beats with ease, and the mixture is intoxicating. While some of the songs on the album reminded me of other bands ("Oh, So Lovely" sounds quite a bit like "Sophtware Slump"-era Grandaddy with its synthesizer bleeps and pacing, which is no bad thing at all), the end product is distinctively E with his forlorn yet positive look on life. Knowing as much as I do about Mr. E and his personal life, it makes his songs that much more poignant and lovely. The guy has seen a lot in his life, and he does an astounding job of baring his soul through his music and creativity.
I cannot recommend this album highly enough. Where "Hombre Lobo" was about the confusion in life, and "End Times" was about the pain of realization, "Tomorrow Morning" reminds us that there is always a new day in which to start over.