Album Review Eels - End Times

All the time it feels like he’s defying you to look away.


– made up, as always, of Mark Oliver Everett, or E if you prefer– is a man on a mission to make up for lost time. Having sent a leisurely five years between albums in the past, he’s narrowed the gap to just 6 months between last year’s ‘Hombre Lobo’ and his new offering, ‘End Times’. Maybe, judging by the monumental subject matter (ranging from the primal need for a mother to the recurrent theme of dying love), he feels the hand of time on his shoulder and he just wants to get it all out. After all, catharsis and Eels have long since gone hand in hand.

Aside from the painful heart-on-sleeve themes, you can easily recognise the deeply personal touch of ‘End Times’ through Everett’s decision to go ultra lo-fi – apparently largely self-recorded in his basement, this is a textbook lesson in back to basics recording. And it works well - why book yourself in to a fancy all-singing, all-dancing studio when all you need to get across your heartache is a couple of microphones and a battered four track?

Opening track ‘The Beginning’ sets the expected suitably sombre tone; the gloom continues in the more gentle rockabilly-esque ‘Gone Man’, (sample pining lyric: “She used to love me/But it’s over now”) yet approached with a little more in the way of swagger and the desire to shake off a bad mood rather than wallow in it. Two tracks in and although it’s consistently blues-ridden subject matter, Everett is showing he can tackle all the crap life throws at him in widely contrasting ways, and each one pretty damn special. The church organ of ‘In My Younger Days’ lends the song a confessional air, the slow tempo matching the mood of someone who has just realised that he can’t bounce back from tragedies like he used to. This whole album in fact is a testimony to life grinding you down, but still somehow managing to get a song out of it, if nothing else – a modern day blues, if you will.

‘Mansions Of Los Feliz’ takes a different twist, seemingly about Everett hauling himself up and learning to enjoy his own solitude. It’s a rare moment of comfort, with a rhythm like you’d get in a rocking chair on your front porch late at night after the last of many, many beers. ‘I Need A Mother’ sees Everett crying for a mother and claiming that he’s sick of being a father figure – potent stuff, drawn into sharp focus when you suddenly remember that Everett isn’t just singing about a random theme – he actually lost his own mother several years ago. The only thing preventing it from being a thing of strange beauty is the pretty uninspired plodding piano backing which seems to get a little stuck in the rut at times.

Eels’ eighth studio album is plainly a traumatic experience yet wrapped in gentle melodies, like a huge warm blanket after you’ve been out in a storm. At times deeply unsettling, at times (and some might say inevitably, considering the subject matter) verging on a little self indulgent, Everett has once again taken the bold gamble of wearing his bleeding heart on his sleeve and somehow makes it pay off. It just about works due to his cracked whispering-in-your-ear delivery, sparse arrangements and by simply allowing you to take a glimpse into his fragmenting world, however uncomfortable it may be at times. And all the time it feels like he’s defying you to look away.


Tags: Eels, Album Reviews, Reviews

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