Mark Oliver Everett, the artist better known as E, has never seemed averse to collaboration, but as the sole constant in the Eels' history, he's clearly a guy who needs to call the shots. And given E's eagerness to bare his soul in song, he may not want to share his multiple neuroses with a bunch of other musicians as he and his muse get to work. So the electronically oriented production of 2018's The Deconstruction suggests E has found the ideal format for his music, one where he can do most of the musical heavy lifting himself. While The Deconstruction features plenty of guitar work from E and some lovely string arrangements, a good bit of this album has been built out of samples and keyboards, and the slightly low-tech sound of the loops and synth patches adds to the off-kilter personality of many of the songs. Plenty of E's best work has always sounded as much like a journal entry as a pop tune, and the slightly boxy, homemade tone of The Deconstruction's best tracks (which E produced in collaboration with Koool G Murder and P-Boo) only adds to the "dark night of the nervous soul" tone that E conjures so well. The Deconstruction finds Eels once again dealing with matters of the heart, and as usual, love is not something that comes easy or goes smoothly for the protagonist of these songs. Even when he tells his partner how much he loves her on "There I Said It," in this context it sounds like too little, too late, and while "Today Is the Day" seems hooky and upbeat on the surface, lines like "I don't know if you'll come along/I just wanted to sing my song about change" tell us he's not so confident about the good times sticking around long. Thematically, The Deconstruction doesn't add a great deal of new ideas to the Eels' repertoire (happiness has never been his strong suit), but E's gifts as a songwriter and vocalist are still sharp, and if you've ever been partial to Mark Everett's slightly skewed but engagingly literate outlook on the world, then The Deconstruction should meet with your approval.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming