A number of acts have made a living on making themselves sound older than they really are. Yet for every Gomez or Paolo Nutini there’s someone whose premature ageing seems totally genuine. Despite being a relatively sprightly 46 years young, Mark Oliver Everett’s cracked, world-weary vocals could have come from a septuagenarian. Needless to say, after a life frequently marred by family tragedy, there is clearly nothing staged about this latest Eels performance. ‘End Times’, his eighth album, switches focus to broken love.
Bluesy rocker ‘Gone Man’ is one of the livelier tracks but elsewhere this seems to be a sombre reflection on old age. The gentle, atmospheric ‘In My Younger Days’ could have cropped up on career highlight ‘Electro-Shock Blues’. It’s a track full of poignant lines, part hopeful, part doomed where Everett states “I’m not yet resigned to fate.. not gonna be ruled by hate, but it’s strong and it’s filling up my days”.
Thankfully the guttural roar from last year’s ‘Hombre Loco’ has been dismissed in favour of husky, intimate tones so ‘End Times’ is a much more comfortable listening experience as a result. ‘Nowadays’ is a typically understated, beautifully rendered piece where subtle strings and acoustic guitar set the scene for a happy/sad tune that ruminates on the decline of society. For ‘I Need A Mother’ he sounds so desperate and lonely, only the hardest heart could deny him a hug.
Despite its permanent downbeat nature, ‘End Times’ is never depressing as Everett always manages to convey that all-important warmth on his records. Although this would be a fitting epitaph to Everett’s career, hopefully this won’t be the final act from him.