In the early 2000s, Eels made a name for themselves almost purely out of the unpredictability of their otherwise simple indie rock music. Whether it was bursting into symphonic orchestral phases, soulful choir bridges or tape-recorded spoken word verses; they were defined by their ability to lull and startle. Catchy but unassuming, frontman and showrunner Mark Oliver Everett (or just ‘E’, for short) wistfully sang through his especially dark subject topics; while Everett’s seemingly helpless subjugation by his own rather unique, unsettled creativity was a massive draw to both their albums and live shows. However, Eels haven’t made music particularly worthy of note for over a decade. Since 2005’s Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, their material hasn't felt ambitious or concerned with risk-taking. Consistently low-key and unadventurous, they haven’t aimed to attract any more listeners so much as to provide minimum momentum that satisfies their affectionate fanbase.

The Deconstruction, although by no means one of Eels’ best, signals a slight return to form. Occasionally instrumentally rich and varied, it’s generally less guilty of excess than their recent releases. It’s still loaded with largely forgettable tracks that either merge into a slow, acoustically minimal sound or a classic Eels rockiness; but fundamentally the least enjoyable tracks on The Deconstruction are still of a higher standard than the best numbers on the previous few releases. A notable change is the mood of the record lies with regard to Everett’s lyrics. If you haven't gathered from a press release, he’s more serene and contemplative – writing some of the more uplifting songs of his career.

The result are some very fine tracks indeed. The titular track carefully projects Everett’s vocals in flitting stereo with a sultry bass guitar/drum instrumental, while some occasional strings eerily interject a sense of depth. Its following track, ‘Bone Dry’, is more of a gritty and addictive stomping rock track, while the irresistible bass riff of ‘Rusty Pipe’ proves Everett can still churn out indie-pop-rock hits as good as any of his peers.

The significant weaknesses of ‘The Deconstruction’, however, lie in its stylistic schisms and ragged pacing. The aforementioned tracks are among the album’s first five songs, and the rest seemingly fades away into a mush of very normal Eels. It isn’t so much that the slower, hymn-like tracks aren’t enjoyable; but they feel so starkly polar to the poppy, grooving louder numbers that the album’s flow is distorted. ‘Sweet Scorched Earth’, ‘Be Hurt’, and much of the albums final few tracks are rather beautiful love songs, and yet feel disregarded by the louder tracks that preceded them. Interlude tracks ‘The Quandary’ and ‘Coming Back’ provide pleasant, lush instrumental segments - hinting that Everett still has his sense of eccentricity – but feel out of place surrounded by the cheesiness of ‘Today is the Day’ and ‘You Are the Shining Light’. You can’t help but get the feeling that The Deconstruction would have made more sense if it had stuck to one idea and not tried to chaotically sway so much between intensities and styles.

The Deconstruction is easily Eels’ best record in over a decade, but still doesn’t really display the kind of ideas that drove people to their music in the first place. Standout tracks, melancholic interludes and stylistic jumpiness add elements of unpredictability to Everett and co. that they’ve sorely missed. But these same things also make it an overarching mess. The pop-rock side of things will appeal to Eels’ fans, while the instrumental depth adds a certain complexity and demonstrates E’s artistic ambition, but the combination of both entails a project that on the whole feels less eccentric and more of a hashed mess.