Under Review: eels – End Times

In the months following the release of Hombre Lobo, I was surprised that Mark Everett didn’t take whatever group of musicians that constituted eels at the time on the road.  Little did I know that, rather than staging a tour for his loud and rocking seventh album, the Man Called E was laying down tracks for that very album’s mellowed counterpart.  Though most eels albums feature dour, introspective themes of crippling loss and trauma, End Times has been specifically billed as E’s “divorce” album.  The fractured relationship in question is between an aging man and the world that has left him behind.  While E has produced or co-produced every one of eels’ albums, End Times, with its minimalist instrumentation and simple presentation, sounds like the most self-produced record in the band’s catalogue.  The album also finds E reuniting with eels’ original drummer, Jonathon “Butch” Norton, who had left the band in 2003.  End Times is, for the most part, an acoustic record, though a trio of electric songs, “Gone Man,” “Paradise Blues” and “Unhinged,” keep some of the riffs from Hombre Lobo (albeit with a much cleaner production).  The rest of the album, with the exception of a clip of dial tones and falling rain (“High And Lonesome”) and a short spoken word piece (“Apple Trees”), is made up of guitar- or piano-based ballads, each showcasing E’s strength as a songwriter.  He longs for a woman’s tenderness in “I Need A Mother” and revisits one of his most harrowing songs, Electro-Shock Blues’ “Elizabeth On The Bathroom Floor,” in “A Line In The Dirt.”  The title track relays the album’s main message in its tale of relating a street-corner drifter’s proclamation of the apocalypse to the narrator’s reflection on a failed relationship.  The detachment and retreat from the personal and public world is something that E has written about plentifully in the past, but End Times is the most fully realized and straightforward presentation of those sentiments that E has come up with in years.  The album ends with “On My Feet” which, like “Things The Grandchildren Should Know” from Blinking Lights And Other Revelations, hints at overcoming the burdens of everyday life.  No matter how dark E’s writing can get (and believe me, it can get pretty dark), he always injects a little optimism, either through a beautifully lilting melody or a simple declaration of strength.

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~ by E. on January 18, 2010.

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