Imagine being wracked with self-doubt. Easy, right? Eels has dealt with imposter syndrome all its life, always feeling the need to impress. Now, it’s our “time.” Mark Everett, E to his mates, is our leader, and he’s given us our anthem: “I Can’t Believe It,” where he sings, “I just wanna be deserving of you. I can’t believe it’s true.”

This album, number 20, finds E in a rather understated, poetic mood. The strings tinkle as he intones, “There isn’t much time now.” As ever with Eels, there’s a stream-of-consciousness flow to the lyrics, as if there were no plan, freewheelin’ like Bob Dylan, if you will.

But there’s a gentle, melancholic feeling to it. It reminds me of how I got into the band in the first place, listening to “Won’t See Her Like Again.” I discovered Elliott Smith… around the turn of the century, and that vibe still exists.

“Goldy” – where thoughts turn to the bond between a man and his goldfish – is pure Eels. The instrumentation is deliberately sparse throughout. “Sweet Smile” is slightly more colourful, but has a wonderful, almost amateur feel, while “Haunted Hero” has the same claustrophobic feel as a Craig Finn solo piece. Perhaps the tortured words offer an insight into E’s mind.

“If I’m Gonna Go Anywhere” ventures into trippy waters, while “And You Run” makes the words “My dear, I feel so torn up inside” sound vaguely happy, with piano plinks and strings joining in.

Everywhere you look, there’s a highlight. “Lay With The Lambs” stands out even in this rarified air. The loners, the disenfranchised, those who tell themselves it’s alright—they’re all in these words.

Short and sweet, “Song For You Know Who” is less bittersweet than bitter, wrapping up in under 150 seconds. This isn’t punk rock, though. Instead, “On The Bridge” wants to be tied to the train tracks before the lovely “Let’s Be Lucky” offers something approaching a silver lining—but you feel the respite won’t last.

The joy is always fleeting, that’s life, but it’s also reflected on this record. “Eels Time” is,  to paraphrase Poison, nothin’ like a good time, and it’s all the better for it.

Rating 9/10

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