The 2005 album Blinking Lights and Other Revelations is about "God and all the questions related to the subject of God," says its creator, Mark Oliver Everett, also known as eels leader E. "It's also about hanging on to my remaining shreds of sanity and the blue sky that comes the day after a terrible storm," he adds, "and it's a love letter to life itself, in all its beautiful, horrible glory."
A homemade epic, Blinking Lights is an imaginative, emotional reflection on the condition of living, recorded mostly in Everett's Los Angeles basement over a period of several years. Sprawling over its discs are songs about faith, responsibility, growing up, dignity, disappointment, comfort, hope and renewal. It's the most personal eels album since 1998's Electro-Shock Blues. That album dealt with the nearly simultaneous suicide of Everett's sister and terminal illness of his mother, from the subjects' points of view. This album finds him a few years down the line, now battling some of the family demons himself, with the after effects of past tragedies becoming more of a personal issue in his adult life, sometimes fearlessly autobiographical, and other times built around the related stories of others.
Finally completed in 2004, Blinking Lights rides a wide aural spectrum of sometimes disparate, ghostly sounds — from the saxophone sextet gospel of "Son of a Bitch," to the surf-rock operatic wail of "Old Shit/New Shit." There's the apocalyptic fire and brimstone of "The Other Shoe," and then there's the Jackie Wilson-in-cyberspace existential celebration of "Hey Man (Now You're Really Living)."
The album is full of unusual instrumentation and some notable guest stars. One song ("Last Time We Spoke") features Everett's hound dog, Bobby, Jr., howling a lonesome solo. A few songs later, eels-fan-turned-collaborator Tom Waits cries a solo — literally — ("Going Fetal"). Later on, R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck (making his second appearance on an eels album) plays dobro, guitar and bass (the Buck co-written "To Lick Your Boots"), and on an album that prominently features the autoharp on several songs, it's exciting to know that the king of rock & roll autoharp, The Lovin' Spoonful's John Sebastian, makes a rare appearance, playing autoharp on one track ("Dusk: A Peach in the Orchard," co-written by Sebastian).
Sometimes eels music is simple and pretty (Daisies of the Galaxy), other times grating and loud, even scary (Souljacker) — according to Everett, that depends on how he feels the story is best served. If it sometimes resembles catchy, popular music on the surface, that's Everett's chosen mode of celebration. There's always something heavy lurking just beneath. Everett is an artist who steadfastly refuses to play by the rules of today's entertainment machine, and is willing to pay the price.
Of course, we're talking about an artist who, when asked to give a quote for the dust jacket to Kurt Cobain's posthumously published diaries submitted this quote: "Please don't do this to me after I kill myself." (The publishers opted not to use the quote.)
And an artist who was singled out by George W. Bush during the 2000 campaign for the U.S. presidency for writing "obscene" songs (the lovely "It's a Motherfucker" from Daisies of the Galaxy, among them) and who, after being told by the Late Night With David Letterman producers that he could not use the term "goddamn" on network television, sang a medley of censored rock's greatest hits during his first appearance on the show — all while standing on the very stage where The Ed Sullivan Show originally censored, or tried to censor them ("Let's spend some time together/Girl we couldn't get much higher...").
Theme from Blinking Lights
From Which I Came / A Magic World
Son of a Bitch
Blinking Lights (For Me)
Trouble with Dreams
Marie Floating over the Backyard
In the Yard, Behind the Church
The Other Shoe
Last Time We Spoke
Theme for a Pretty Girl That Makes You Believe God Exists
Blinking Lights (For You)
Dust of Ages
Old Shit / New Shit
Bride of Theme from Blinking Lights
Hey Man (Now You're Really Living)
I'm Going to Stop Pretending That I Didn't Break Your Heart
To Lick Your Boots
If You See Natalie
Sweet Li'l Thing
Dusk: A Peach in the Orchard
Whatever Happened to Soy Bomb
Last Days of My Bitter Heart
The Stars Shine in the Sky Tonight
Things the Grandchildren Should Know