“The story is old, I know, but it goes on” – so sang Morrissey on late-period Smiths classic ‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me’, and it’s a phrase that comes to mind when listening to the latest album from Eels (essentially Mark ‘E’ Everett and his revolving cast of sidekicks). Tomorrow Morning is the final part of a quick-fire trilogy of albums released in the last year and a half – it’s been painted, not least by the man himself, as the ‘new dawn’ album following on the heels of the fairly bleak End Times, which dealt with the fallout of a long-term relationship. While that sounds like an interesting concept, he’s done similar things before: back in 2000, the masterful Daisies of the Galaxy represented the light-breaking-through-the-clouds after its harrowing predecessor Electro-Shock Blues.
The problem these days is that E keeps returning to similar themes and similar arrangements with ever-diminishing returns. Advance notices on Tomorrow Morning made much of its use of found sounds and tape loops, promising a contrast to its stark predecessor, but things are still pretty straightforward here. Lead track ‘Looking Up’ is certainly E at his most playful, a gospel-like arrangement with handclaps and a sprightly piano hook. ‘Baby Loves Me’ is similarly breezy, underpinned by a perky drum loop and infused with odd little sounds that surround E’s carefree vocal.
However, despite the differences, there’s still not enough to distinguish this Eels album from the very average couple that preceded it. For the most part, Tomorrow Morning is characterised by meandering, nondescript tunes. Everett’s simplistic lyrical approach, which used to be a vital part of Eels’ charm, continues to grate – in particular, ‘What I Have To Offer’ (which does exactly what it says on the tin) is just painful. The quirky, unsettling sonic nods to Tom Waits that characterised classic Eels albums have by and large disappeared, as has the unhinged blues of the Souljacker era; while thematically, we’ve simply heard it all before. You could argue that, with the epic 2005 album Blinking Lights and Other Revelations and the warts-and-all autobiography that followed it, Everett simply exhausted himself creatively, and since then he’s been struggling to bring new life to his tried-and-tested approach. Perhaps a complete overhaul is in order.