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Double trouble
Eís Eels offer up an epic two-disc set

"My advice to the young artist is this," Mark Oliver Everett says over the phone from LA. "If youíre having trouble making a record, just go make another record." Everett knows what heís talking about: as the single constant at the center of the Eels, Everett (a/k/a E) has been making albums to solve other albumsí problems since 1996, when he released Beautiful Freak (DreamWorks), which included "Novocaine for the Soul." The problem? "Novocaine" became a hit on MTV and alternative radio, and that all but sentenced the then DreamWorks-signed Everett to a lifetime of trying to replicate the songís sleek post-grunge formula.

Everett, who brings his latest version of Eels to Somerville Theatre this Wednesday, struggled to push the music without losing the Eelsí identity. He made a densely arranged concept album about death, then a collection of Day-Glo pop tunes ó a dark, electronics-heavy CD gave way to a scruffy, off-the-cuff rock album. The bandís growing discography was defined as much by its variety as by Everettís deadpan sentimentality.

For Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, his first release for the indie Vagrant, Everett thought to himself, "What would be the most difficult thing I could do in 2005?" A double album was his answer. Actually, he laughs, "I didnít set out to make a double album when I started working on this years ago. At a certain point, it occurred to me that it just wasnít working as a single disc; it wasnít adding up to what I wanted it to add up to." In its next-to-last incarnation, he explains, Blinking Lights constituted one CD of "purely orchestrated music." At that time, Eels were coming off 2002ís Souljacker (DreamWorks), an aggressive album whose cover had Everett disguised as a cross between Vincent Gallo and the Unabomber.

"It just didnít quite ever click as a whole," he says of his initial design. "So I kind of snapped and realized I needed to do the opposite ó just go out and rock for a while. I was so tired of the boring process of working with orchestrators, so I went out and played 80 rock concerts and made kind of a guitar-rock album. And during that tour, I started getting all the ideas that led to Blinking Lightsí finally adding up for me."

Shootenanny! (DreamWorks), Everettís 2003 guitar-rock album, led some observers to wonder whether heíd closed the book on the sort of conceptual sprawl he introduced on Electro-Shock Blues (DreamWorks, 1998). Blinking Lights suggests he hasnít: itís a slow, methodically paced set full of pretty melodic passages and sophisticated sonic textures, and it revolves around God, the biggest concept of all. Even given a handful of twinkly instrumental interludes and some up-tempo numbers to offset the adult-pop balladry ó "Going Fetal," a goofy, organ-enriched rocker, and "Old Shit/New Shit," a frisky ode to second beginnings ó the two CDsí 90-plus minutes are lot to take in. Everettís aware of the demands this project puts upon the listener, but heís optimistic as well. "This was built to be something that wouldnít necessarily reveal itself right away. It had to be something that you took time with; it wouldnít be until youíd spent enough time with it that one day you realized it snuck under your skin somehow and all of a sudden itís your best friend. Itís a tall order, asking people to spend that much time with something these days. But thatís what itís built to be, and hopefully that happens."

Eels | Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville | June 29 | 617.931.2000

Issue Date: June 24 - 30, 2005
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