Eels have released 14 albums since 1991. “End Times” was the tenth album, released in 2010. Shane Warne once commented that the English spin bowler, Monte Panesar hadn’t played 61 Test matches for England; he had played one Test match, 61 times. The inference was that he didn’t develop his skills, he didn’t change, he was the same bowler at the end of his career as when he started. Shane Warne died recently and I suspect he was more into Adele than Eels but if he had listened to all of Mark E Everett’s band’s albums, he might well have said the same. Sonically, there’s very little to distinguish one album from another although the live album, “Eels With Strings” has no electric instruments.
This is not to say that the albums are not worth listening to. They are all interesting with a mixture of sombre, self-reflective, self-pitying songs, playful, lighthearted songs and full blown rock songs.
“End Times” was the second in a trilogy of concept albums, released in quick succession. “Hombre Lobo” was released on 2nd June 2009, “End Times” on 19th January 2010 and “Tomorrow Morning” on 17th August 2010. The theme of “End Times” is divorce and aging. Mark Everett was 47 when the album was released.
“The Beginning” is a low key, quiet beginning and describes how wonderful the singer’s life was at the start of a relationship. They would get dressed up to go out and, after a perfect night out, they would lie in bed until late, with the sun shining in and put their arms around each other. “Everything was beautiful and free in the beginning”.
“Gone Man” is a full blown rock song in which the singer is now living by himself, only talking to the dog and full of regret. He now knows that he has caused the relationship to end through his poor behaviour. “My problem was that I could not see what was important right in front of me”.
“In my younger days I would have just chalked it up as part of my ongoing education. But I’ve had enough, been through some stuff and I don’t need any more misery to teach me what I should be. I just need you back”.
“Mansions Of Los Felix” describes a man living by himself, locked away in the depths of his own loneliness. Lyrically, it’s a desperate song; musically, it’s upbeat and jolly.
Recalling the end of the relationship in “A Line In The Dirt”, the singer recalls a fight in which his ex partner locked herself in a bathroom and he asked her if she wanted to be alone. She replied that she didn’t but she felt that he did. “I drew a line into the dirt and dared her to step right across it. And she did”. This is a classic Eels song, with Mark Everett’s sad voice accompanied by piano and horns as he sings a melodic song of regret, self-loathing and misery.
As a teenager, Mark Everett attended a concert by The Who when a special effects laser struck him in the eye, causing him to wear special dark glasses ever since. He also has a big bushy beard and resembles Ted Kaczynski, the maths professor who planted bombs in the USA over a period of 20 years and was known as “The Unabomber”. In “End Times”, the singer projects forward in time when he can imagine himself as “a crazy guy with a matted beard, standing on the corner, shouting out ‘end times are near’, and nobody noticing”. The singer recognises that the end of the world is imminent, but he doesn’t care because he’s lost his lover.
“Apple Trees” is a spoken song, lasting less than 40 seconds in which he remembers being on a car trip, as a young child, looking at a large number of trees. Focussing on one tree amongst “billions”, he felt insignificant.
After the quiet solitude of the last song, “Paradise Blues” is an up-tempo rocker with a great riff. By now, he has come to resent his ex partner and calls her “a scary little suicide bomber”, who has wrecked his life.
“Nowadays” is less angry and more reflective. He is unable to face the world and simply wants to keep to himself. It’s a haunting, beautiful, sad song.
“Unhinged” is an angry song, accusing his ex of being “a mean old girl behind her crazy eyes”.
“High And Lonesome” has no words and very little music, consisting of sound effects: a phone call, a thunderstorm, some footsteps and a knock on the door.
Mark Everett’s father was Hugh Everett, a renowned physicist, who proposed a theory of parallel universes in 1957. In “I Need A Mother”, he tells his ex that he has been her father for too long and he needs mothering.
On Eels’ third album, “Daisies Of The Galaxy,” track 4 was called “I Like Birds”. He rekindles his rapport with birds on “Little Bird”, which describes a conversation he had with a bird, hopping on his porch. By the end of his heart-to-heart, he understands that he mustn’t give up and can’t let his heartbreak take him out without a fight.
The last track on most Eels albums is normally a song of hope, redemption and positivity. “On My Feet” starts by describing himself as being “in great pain over great beauty”. He tries to look forwards and not backwards by pushing his bed against the window “so there’d only be one side” to help him feel less lonely. He still looks back fondly on his time together. “When it’s time to look back on my life, most of it won’t seem so important. The shit that matters and what I’ll really miss is falling asleep with your arms around me. Waking up knowing that you’re there, making everything feel right in the world”. He accepts that those times are gone and he marvels at the fact that he has survived. The last lines are “One sweet day I’ll be back on my feet and I’ll be alright. I just gotta get back on my feet”.