Mark Oliver Everett started as something of a Beck imitator, so it’s fitting that he’s gotten around to making his Sea Change. This is the Eels’ frontman’s big breakup album, and for a guy who has made several fine concept-lite records, the stakes are high. But Everett’s prolific output doesn’t do the quality of his songwriting any favors. End Times follows Hombre Lobo by slightly more than six months. Perhaps with a few more months to fine-tune these songs, Everett could have turned his seemingly inspiring subject matter into a more inspired record. Instead, End Times is a stripped-down, bare-bones affair. Many of Everett’s best moments are his least austere, and the dull title track and the honest yet disturbing “ I Need a Mother” would benefit from bigger arrangements. Melodically, these aren’t Eels’ best tunes either, and eventually the downcast vibe begs for a tempo change or three. Only the mildly funky “Gone Man” and “Paradise Blues” rise above the dirge-like feel, and the latter really isn’t of a piece thematically (which may explain why it’s the record’s highlight). We expect a better bum-trip record from a guy who has made many superb bum-trip records. Unfortunately, End Times isn’t the revelation that it could/should be. — Chris Drabick
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