Music Reviews
End Times

Eels End Times

(Vagrant) Rating - 8/10

Misery, disparity and a broken heart often leads to the most regarded work in an artist’s career. Mark Oliver Everett (E) is no different, but perhaps enough is enough? I, like a lot of people truly relish in the auditory pleasure of hearing somebody rip out their heart and soul and put it to record - there is a perplexing comfort in sharing or relating to others anguish. When it is done well, it can have as devastating effects on the listener as the original ones had on the artist that forced them to make the record in the first place. However, I would happily sacrifice this element from Eels music, if only to see him happy. If there is a more deserving character in contemporary music of happiness, stability and truelove then I would sincerely love to hear them. I’m sure the back-story is familiar to everyone by now, but Everett has endured a life plagued with loss – it has seemed whatever new corner he might turn, or direction head toward he would always be greeted with death. Well guess what? He’s had his heart ripped out again: this is Eels at his most straightforward and heartbroken. Blinking Lights And Other Revelations was reflective, poignant and torturously beautiful but this sees him flat out with a busted heart and in a world he can’t quite fathom – and yes, it sounds wonderful.

Eels' last album Hombre Lobo was arguably the poorest – not that it was a particularly poor album, but it was the first time where it felt like he was running through the motions – somewhat formulaic, whereas previous albums, although they have always shared musical qualities, have also always been going somewhere, had a purpose and ultimately a uniqueness regardless of the overall outcome or feel. Eels, I often find, is comparable to early Leonard Cohen in a sense that to a casual listener the songs are too similar structurally and therefore lacking originality and progression. However, to anybody that spends time with these songs they know that this isn’t the case; it’s within these songs that the beauty lies. They are riddled with subtle delicacies and beautiful oddities that then make them rise to the surface and shine in their uncomfortable exposure.

If ever there was an artist that embodied the notion of saying difficult things in a simple manner then its E: much like Bukowski, he is the master of sentiment over wordplay, he knows how and when to deliver a rudimentary sentence. Granted, it may be lacking in adjectives and it certainly won’t be superfluous but it bowls you over in sentiment and sheer belief, and belief is an under-appreciated and difficult accolade to possess in art. E just so happens to deal exclusively in belief; like him or not, you believe him - there’s no bullshit, which in itself is humbling and everybody likes a gracious host.

First things first – the last song on the album On My Feet is quite possibly the most gut wrenching song he has ever written, every pore of the song oozes hurt, isolation and longing. The lyrics capture a pain and anguish that is relatable to everybody that has suffered loss, yet the fragile and blissful content also capture moments of such solitude that we would either never own up to feeling or relinquish such feelings into absorption for fear of them resurfacing – “I push the bed against the window today, so there would only be one side”. The tone of his voice is hoarse. It’s a strange and opposing duality, as he is literally letting everything go in terms of words, yet his vocals are restrained and controlled. This feels more due to necessity than anything though; if he’s holding anything back then its tears, and you know this because you are sharing that journey of restraint – each tear held back from him is matched from you. This song absolutely threw me against the wall, I felt crippled, anxious and weird yet strangely liberated.

Perhaps the saddest thing about this album is the acceptance of loss in his life and the realisation in the futility of all of ours. This album sees a man struggling to come to terms with everything around him but with a resigning acceptance of nothingness. There are snippets of optimism that are equally matched with shards of doubt. Maturity has soaked in and youthfulness and naivety can no longer be a way out, see In My Younger Days. It’s almost as though he’s given up any element of pretence and although he knows what he wants in life. “God Damn I miss that Girl” (Little Bird), he’s ultimately at a loss and in a position of no control in all aspects of his life. Control and futility reign supreme in the themes of this album (along with loss, of course) throughout and often like our own solutions in life, this album shows there isn’t always one – it’s a perpetual head-fuck that leaves us in an overly analytical mindset that subsequently renders us just as confused as ever but with a slightly better grasp on why.

There are throwaway songs on the album that are derivative, uninspired and somewhat turgid (Gone Man, Paradise Blues), there are ones that are of a good Eels standard (Mansions Of Los Feliz, A Line In The Dirt) and then are songs that of such simplistic beauty that you wonder if the album should have come with a small chunk of one of E’s organs attached (Little Bird, In My Younger Days, On My Feet). But that’s okay, pain; misery and putrid sorrow of course create great music, but confusion, bewilderment and soul searching can of course lead to songs of a similar disposition. So in a sense the imperfections are actually its perfections because it represents E’s state of mind purely: his every whimsical thought, his waking up and not knowing how he’s going to feel that day and his whole-hearted honesty to allow every fucking shred of it be put to record because he has the audacity, intensity and conviction to do so.