Every review of Tomorrow Morning is, by necessity, going to discuss frontman Mark “E” Everett’s newfound penchant for sunny lyrics, if only because the man has spent his entire career being either miserable (understandably so) or emotionally removed. Whether this optimism is genuine or simply a natural byproduct of his plan to write a trilogy about the three stages of a doomed relationship (with 2009’s Hombre Loco as the precursor to the relationship and 2010’s End Times representing the despondent lows of the breakup) remains to be seen. What is certain though, is that Tomorrow Morning, in its unnatural attempts to convey hopefulness, is most often repetitive and boring — and occasionally downright irritating.
Considering how long it’s been since I checked in with Eels (2001’s Souljacker was probably the last album of theirs that I listened to in full), it’s a bit dispiriting to find out how little has changed in their universe. Everett is still tossing off deliberately forced rhymes and sarcastic non-sequiturs over drab beats with disappointing regularity. The first real offender on Tomorrow Morning would be “Baby Loves Me”, a simplistic electro-pop song that aims for casual cool but mostly just ends up being annoying. If not for the incredibly ill-advised gospel number “Looking Up” (yes, you read that correctly), “Baby Loves Me” would stand out amongst Tomorrow Morning’s lowest moments.
Mostly though, Eels just sound uninspired. “Spectacular Girl,” one of several redundant songs about a new girlfriend who helps E move on, is built around a listless keyboard progression that lazily falls into an even more listless chorus. “I’m a Hummingbird” initially seems like a halfway decent transitional track, meant to be a soothing string-laden precursor to something more invigorating, but it just meanders tonally for longer than it should until reaching its conclusion. This wouldn’t be so egregious if the following track (“The Morning”) didn’t follow the exact same pattern.
There are promising moments throughout Tomorrow Morning, but they tend to be outshone by poor choices. “This Is Where It Gets Good” features some pleasant stuttering bass work and generally uplifting arrangement choices, and it would have been a good three-minute song. Unfortunately, Eels choose to drag it out to six minutes without adding anything new or interesting for the entire second half. “What I Have to Offer” is based around a sweet melody and works well as a mostly solo ballad, but it may be the lone bright spot on the album’s seemingly interminable first half.
The second half of the album is less spotty (with the obvious exception of “Looking Up”), but it’s still undercooked. The sequence of slow burner “That’s Not Her Way” and “I Like The Way This Is Going” keeps the quality level above mediocre, but there’s little about the second half of Tomorrow Morning to make up for the troubles of the first half. Leaving aside the lack of musical inspiration on Tomorrow Morning, there’s still the issue of E’s redundant lyricism. It’s good to hear that the guy may be happy, but this album shows that he only knows how to express it in the most obvious and tedious ways. Things start to look up for E, he writes a song called “Looking Up”. He gets some confidence, and he writes a song called “The Man” which includes the lines “I’m the Man/ Everyone is a fan”. Eels can do better, and his fans should expect better.