End Times

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Mark “E” Everett’s Eels have been prolific these last five years, issuing new, live, and retrospective recordings; even a film score. Since 2005’s Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, Everett has written songs increasingly obsessed with his own loneliness and aging. Adrian Tomine's cover illustration for End Times depicts a raggedy old man reinforcing these themes before the album even starts. They are so prevalent, expressed so intimately -- even by the Eels' own standards 0- it’s almost uncomfortable listening. E's self-reflection feels like he’s singing into a dirty, distorted mirror to offer the truth of his situation back at him -- and consequently, us. End Times is ultimately about the end of a relationship that has left him shattered; reinforcing his loneliness and sense of mortality. E blames no one but himself. He details the joy the relationship brought on “The Beginning,” with an acoustic guitar that quietly remembers its simplicity. In “Gone Man,” however, the next track, a jarring shift occurs: an electric rockabilly shuffle reveals: “Some things you can fuck right up . . . my problem was that I could not see/what was important right in front of me . . . too soon gone man gone . . . She used to love me but it’s over now.” This is a dark, sparse, elegantly -- and enjoyably -- somewhat mopey, paradoxical album. It’s emotionally raw, but devoid of self-pity. It's charming in its sense of irony and self-awareness, and reflects empathy for “a dying world. . . I’m not the only one who’s feeling this pain.” There are reflections on the past in the skeletally atmospheric “In My Younger Days," whereas the title tracks expresses E’s fear of ending up a crazy old man on the street, but one who's willing to accept it if necessary. Throughout there are reminiscences from the relationship both bad and good. First in the piano, banjo, and string-laden “A Line in the Dirt,” and then in “Apple Trees,” where a spoken word tape plays over a barely there three-chord vamp. The closer, “On My Feet,” is a quiet, minimally arranged waltz with organ, guitars, and a vocal that comes out from the ether, that reveals an anthem: "I’m a man in great pain over great beauty . . . but I’m pretty sure I’ve been through worse, I’m sure I can take the hit.” He describes actions he takes to stem desperation: pushing the bed against the wall so it won’t feel so empty. In the end, he expresses his truth: that he loved fully even if imperfectly; before stating: “One sweet day I’ll be back on my feet/and I’ll be alright/I just gotta get back on my feet.” Sometimes art extracts a terrible price from its creator; The Eels' End Times proves it.

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