Everything was beautiful and free/In the beginning’, muses Eels’ lyricist Mark Everett (also known as E) on the album opener. Not the most original insight, arguably, but for an album thematically termed by the frontman as ‘the divorce album’, it sets the tone for a sincerely felt if not a rather poignant record.
The songs are heartfelt, and, although not groundbreaking or life-changing, E does manage to bring something new to a well-trodden path; this is clear from the lyrics of lead single ‘A Line In The Dirt’ (‘She locked herself in the bathroom again/So I am pissing in the yard’). Charming.
This isn’t just a break-up album though, as E’s concerns are wider. The album is called ‘End Times’, and the artwork is a portrait of the artist as an old man. There are most definitely thematic concerns about aging as well, in stubborn defiance on the title-track (‘The world is ending/And what do I care’), the rueful ‘In My Younger Days’ and the unbelievably personal ‘I Need A Mother’.
It’s not entirely glum though. The bluesy (unsurprisingly) ‘Paradise Blues’ is an energetic, Tom Waits-style number, even if this is just in delivery and not thanks to skillful or imaginative lyricism (I didn’t notice the line ‘Well that’s some crazy-ass shit’ on Swordfishtrombones, though I might be wrong).
‘Gone Man’ is also a fun release, giving the album some needed variation – most of the other songs are just E and his guitar, often complaining along the lines of ‘Goddamn/I miss that girl’. Although it is sincerely felt, his lyrics (or guitar work) aren’t original enough to make this by any means a classic. For that, you might just need to do think beyond pissing on a lawn.