Mark Everett, known simply as E, occupies a peculiar space in indie rock. The foundations of his music are not separate from that of other artists, with songs fuelled by guitar-driven chord progressions and conventional structures. It’s the other, slightly frivolous details that have caused Eels to settle for a niche place in the industry. E sings about love and loneliness — all that jazz — but also delves into a darker space that explores death and depression. He blends these themes in such a way that it makes you feel sad for being happy, and happy for being sad.
Daisies of the Galaxy comes to terms with the torment that built the deeply bleak and reflective Electro-Shock Blues, and injects a taste of happiness. The album is summery and cheerful on the surface (helped by its quirky, upbeat aesthetic) but contains cynical undertones. E shows genuine calmness during his display of sorrow, and even a degree of comfort. As track titles like “I Like Birds” show, there’s a suggestion of him finding pleasure in the simpler things in life. There’s a sweet honesty to the record, with great humour found inside the lyrics, arrangement, and instrumentation of its best tracks.
E’s voice carries with it a huge amount of personality, and whilst the simplicity of his rhymes can be flaky at times, it’s mostly very charming. He writes personally and sings with sincerity, so the odd slice of cheese here and there can be forgiven.
Still, for all the joy Daisies of the Galaxy offers — and there is a lot — something holds it back from being a truly masterful album. As with all of Eels’ works, there’s a limit to the idiosyncratic approach: the likely explanation for a lack of commercial success since “Novocaine for The Soul” in 1996. Nonetheless, Daisies of the Galaxy is a highly accomplished record, and stands as the finest testimony to one of the most unique songwriters in modern music. It’s a go-to Summer album for nihilists.
8 out of 10
I like E. No, not that E. Mr. E. The sad cuddle E. Daisies of the Galaxy is a real sweet spot of unobtrusive, almost apologetic Eels melancholy. I love that place. Despair and mania skip hand in hand through cutesy acoustic numbers and gruff rollers and slow burners about the hidden little things that swell bigger than everything. It’s a good ride.
I have a soft spot for the title track. It’s hopelessly sweet. The more famed songs — “I Like Birds”, “It’s a Motherfucker”, “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues” — are fabulous and disarming alone as well as in context. The carnival absurdity of “Tiger in My Tank” marks the extremity of the album’s character, and, as enjoyable as it is, also betrays the album’s limitations.
*Daisies of the Galaxy *is a beautiful place to be for a time, but it isn’t a masterpiece. It’s the black dog curling up in your lap and wagging its tail. We savour that frame of mind more than we care to admit, I think, for whatever reason. Maybe because it puts us close to ourselves. Close, mind you, not there. All the same, there are few feeders I’d rather perch on than this.
8 out of 10
Eels have a knack for creating a music that juxtaposes itself effortlessly. From the regal, carefree opening minutes of “Grace Kelly Blues” to the last, happy-go-lucky seconds of “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues”, Daisies Of The Galaxy brings a lot of desolate emotions behind quirky, upbeat pop tracks through most of its playtime. The exception would be “It’s A Motherfucker”, which sounds closer to a tragic musical piece, and shows its heart far more openly.
Mark Everett’s vocals are a unique signature of the band’s output and surely play a big part in the sunstruck sound that comes across in so much of their work. There’s a lot of lyrical themes here and it can feel slightly scattered across the album, making for a patchwork of ponderings. Despite it all though, you won’t be sobbing by the end of Daisies Of The Galaxy, and you’ll likely take away happy memories of a good album. Whether you remember “I Like Birds”, the musical equivalent of sticking your head in the sand, or the eerie toybox centred “Flyswatter”, there’s a lot of good music here, all crafted into a cohesive album.
Its tail end does sag though, and if it weren’t for “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues” (which wasn’t even meant to appear on the album), Daisies Of The Galaxy would probably fade pretty quickly in the last third of the tracklist. A solid Eels release and an album worthy of a road-trip.
8 out of 10