It’s fair to say Mark Oliver Everett, (or just E) the driving force behind Eels, has been a busy man over the last few years. After releasing his critically acclaimed double album Blinking Lights And Other Revelations in 2005, E has released a fantastic autobiography, made a documentary about his quantum mechanic father, and returned to the studio to create the brilliant, raucous Hombre Lobo, released just last June. Seven months on, E has already composed its follow up in the shape of End Times, and in true Eels fashion it completely contrasts with its predecessor as it takes its place amongst the band’s jagged back catalogue.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that End Times is so radically different from Hombre; indeed, E is a man who has an entire career full of interesting if intriguing career choices which have produced a very diverse collection of records. But especially after its predecessor’s volume, power and undeniable cool, End Times is so stripped down, so quiet and so introspective its stunning to think of them being released within the same twelve months.
End Times is the sound of E embracing a soft, soulful approach to his music that’s feels more blues or folk influenced than anything we’ve heard from him before. It seems to have been conceived in a reflective, wistful and nostalgic period, and as such certainly isn’t a particularly upbeat offering. Indeed, most of the album is made up of songs consisting of just E and his guitar, recounting tales of lost loves to quiet, soulful strumming. It’s peppered with more upbeat, driving numbers such as Gone Man and Paradise Blues but the overall theme is very much a sombre recollection of the past, with the fragile, beautiful Little Bird standing out amongst the pack.
The concept behind End Times is initially exciting because as mentioned, every Eels album is a sizeable reaction to what came before it and is often very different. This concept has served E very well in the past, but here it just doesn’t quite come off. End Times is so far removed from the mood and sound of Hombre Lobo that it doesn’t allow itself much room for diversity. It’s not that it’s a depressing listen, as there’s still enough hope, wry humour and great melodies to make it a good album, but it stops some way short of being a great Eels album, perhaps because it comes so soon after Hombre and it’s soft impact is lessened when compared to it.
At the same time, the promise of E returning to full-time writing should be a very exciting thought for fans, and End Times nails a consistently warm, moving if slightly sad mood. It’s perhaps not quite as good as it could’ve been, but it’s the sound of one of today’s best songwriters expanding an already impressive palette and producing something a little different. At the end of the day, the world is still richer for another Eels album, and perhaps that’s all you really need to know.