Mark Oliver Everett, a.k.a. the Eels’ main man, “E” (above), faces down the dangerous title challenge and comes up a winner on the aptly named “Wonderful, Glorious.”
An “anything goes” approach to recording, which included opening up to let his bandmates collaborate on the songwriting, pays off in this captivating collection that finds the (not always reliable) narrators of the songs at pivotal junctures and fighting their way to the next step, hopefully, a little closer to the light.
That battle begins with feisty, fuzzy opener “Bombs Away” and concludes in bright backing vocals and energy on the title track. Along the way as warped organ blips and warbly guitar licks dart out of corners, Everett and his characters meander through the spare electric guitar atomspherics of “Accident Prone,” the hazy drone of “The Turnaround” and the funky, blues-tinged “New Alphabet.”
The album’s highlight comes in the weary optimism of “On the Ropes.” “I’ve got enough fight left inside this tired heart to win this one and walk out on my feet, no retreat,” Everett sings in his burnished rasp of that particular type of determination, where victory is the only option to keep from skidding into the abyss. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “On the Ropes”
The Eels play the Paradise Rock Club on Feb. 27.
Sarah Rodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.