Album review: Eels – End Times (Vagrant, 2010)

Ben Weisz 1 February 2010

Appropriately titled, ‘The Beginning’ opens the Eels’ 8th album and sets a wistful tone, reminiscing on the better days of a lost love. What follows is 35 minutes of post-marital blues, kicked off in style by the boot-stampingly nihilistic ‘Gone Man’.

This is in many ways a safe album. Musically simple, delicate strings and shimmering synths form a wispy body around its skeleton of guitar; Everett’s howling vocals provide the album’s beating heart, which is needed at times to keep it afloat. Tiredness with life oozes from every note.

Mostly unadventurous lyrically, the album is yet another take on the well-worn concept of a break-up record – it was written in response to ‘Eels’ alter-ego Mark Oliver Everett’s recent divorce. “The shit that really matters/and what I’ll really miss/is falling asleep with your arms around me” from ‘On My Feet’ is hardly groundbreaking, whilst comparing his ex to a suicide bomber in ‘Paradise Blues’ is a slightly extreme and relatively crude way of trying to represent the hyperbolic angst of a lover scorned.

Nevertheless, there are occasional flashes of perceptual brilliance. Bitterness towards naive lovers’ blissful ignorance is neatly captured by the metaphor of ‘Mansions of Los Feliz’, and despite having plagiarised an introduction from Leona Lewis; ‘I Need A Mother’ will stir a longing for the security of the past in anyone with half a soul.

End Times is nothing special. Yet Everett’s visceral growling and its simple shoegazing reflection make it worth a listen all the same.

Ben Weisz