Mark ‘E’ Everett of Eels could reasonably complain about many things
End Times 5/5 Mark ‘E’ Everett of Eels could reasonably complain about many things, but not about his music being overshadowed by his personal life. Pretty much everything we know about E – his discovery, aged 19, of the body of his emotionally remote father, the death of his mother from cancer, his sister’s suicide, subsequent years spent trudging through an existential blizzard – we learned from his songs. And anyone who first makes their mark (in 1996) with a single called ‘Novocaine for the Soul’ isn’t exactly keeping their cards close to their chest.
As the title suggests, eighth studio LP End Times is no gambol in the grass with newborn lambs. In terms of documenting pain (the demise of a long-term relationship), it’s almost up there with his soul-wrenching Electro-Shock Blues, but E couldn’t wallow if you called him a hippo and led him to a waterhole. The impact of these pitch-perfect and hugely affecting pop songs – most of them the warm acoustic kind, recorded in his basement on a four-track – lies in their lack of melodrama and self-pity.
The aching ‘The Beginning’, the title track (where E’s focus shifts to the madness of the world outside) and the harrowing ‘On My Feet’ suggest he learned his narrative skills from Springsteen and Tom Waits, his gently rasping tones (equal parts Lennon and The Boss) doubling the songs’ emotional wallop.
Cherry-picking lyrics is often a sure way to misread a record, but E allows no ambiguity. ‘It’s not easy being on my feet these days/But you know I’m pretty sure that I’ve been through worse/And I’m sure I can take the hit,’ he sings in ‘On My Feet’, while ‘I Need a Mother’ is even more bracingly direct. Luckily for us, End Times is not the finale, but another chapter in E’s oddly Job-like story. Sharon O’Connell Available now online.