It's fitting that one of the most personal, beautiful, and dark albums that I've ever heard is also one of the funniest and most hopeful. E's world-weary, often vulgar musings on death (including his sister's suicide), cancer and, ultimately, coping with the same make this one of the best albums of the 90s. (The album art for this release is strangely appropriate - the goofy cartoons in the liner notes and fatalist puns throughout the lyrics all give off a nice feeling of tired-in-the-soul, magic absurdity.)
Many tracks are funky and dissonant, but we see the real showpieces when the band stops to take a breather. The guitars in the introductory track seem to click with every strum, a happy consequence of playing some fairly-contorting chords. The title track midway through is probably the most hopeless and understated moment on the album, but absolutely crucial. It is, in fact, always darkest before the dawn.
Things eventually start to look up, of course, with brighter tunes and self-effacing lyrics ("Are you missing the dearly bereft?"), promises of brighter times - proving that life's best moments mean nothing without the dark bits to balance it out. The band never topped this.
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