Mark Oliver Everett, Eels’ core member, knows about heartbreak and loss: The second Eels disc, Electro-Shock Blues, sidestepped the sophomore slump by wringing knee-weakening songs out of his sister’s suicide, his mother’s death, and his attempts to come to terms with being the sole survivor of his family. End Times, Eels’ eighth studio album, deals with a different loss: It documents the fallout of his divorce.
Unfortunately, End Times comes off as impersonal and flat—which is shocking, considering that Everett has scaled back the studio gloss since 2005’s exceedingly ambitious double-album Blinking Lights And Other Revelations. Although End Times was recorded on a four-track, tape hiss and instrumental fudge-ups have been eradicated, along with any rawness or spontaneity.
Obviously, Everett was working through some serious shit, but it feels like everything was dashed off as soon as it sprung to mind—from the insipid 40-second spoken-word “Apple Trees” (literally about looking at trees) to, once again, more songs about birds and the blues. “A Line In The Dirt” and “I Need A Mother,” about pinpointing when a relationship crumbles and assessing soul-crushing loneliness, respectively, are rare bright spots, but everything else here suggests that Everett has simply lost too much—and even worse, is just going through the motions in writing about it.