Mark Oliver Everett, aka E, of the band Eels, has never been known as an optimistic soul. His reputation of sad, heartbroken and doomy lyrics have followed the man throughout his (already 2 decades spanning) career. Even the lot of black humour in some Eels records, even the quite optimistic and enjoying-life approach of his last record, have often failed to change the somewhat simplistic image that Eels is a depressing band. Sure, Everett had a lot of problems and disaster in his life: his sister committed suicide and his mother died of cancer, both in less than 3 years time. And indeed, these dramatic events have reflected in Eels’ songwriting at some points. But black humour and sardonic twists have also been essential in the Eels discography. Every record was very different, and while "Electro-shock Blues" (which deals quite directly with the death of E’s sister and mother) and the heartbroken "End Times" indeed were very bleak, there were also the more optimistic "Daisies of the Galaxy" and the latest record "Tomorrow Morning", not even to mention the debut with the Eels moniker: "Beautiful Freak" was very dreamy hopeful melancholic pop where the title track and the magnificent "Spunky" were highlights (remember the amazing line "It’s a free-for-all you and me. One day the world will be ready for you and wonder how they didn’t see" from "Spunky").
Nonetheless Eels has this reputation of a bleak band, while in fact only part of their discography was on the depressive side. Ironically one absolutely wonderfully hopegiving song the band made came from such a bleak record. "PS: You Rock My World" is the final track of the extremely bleak "Electro-shock Blues" album.
"Electro-Shock Blues" was released soon after the suicide of E’s sister Elizabeth (lines from songs about this event don’t leave much to the imagination: "I am going to a place where I’m always high") and the death of his mother after a battle with cancer. The whole album was a drastic change from the dreamy sound of "Beautiful Freak". The album was bleak and dealt with subjects such as mental decay, illnesses, death. "Cancer for the Cure" became an alternative hit, and "Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor" and "Going to your Funeral pt 1" were other praised tracks. Some other titles included "My Descent Into Madness", "Hospital Food" and "The Medication is wearing off". Not exactly an album that sounded optimistic… In general, the wide audience was not prepared for such a bleak record, but the music press praised the release.
However, while "PS You Rock My World" already was a fantastic hopegiving song by itself, to put this hopeful song at the end of such a bleak album makes the statement even stronger. As if at the end of the album, the recovery has started and Everett retrieves his desire to live.
The song starts with a paragraph that basically sums up the whole song:
"I was at a funeral the day I realised I wanted to spend my life with you
Sitting down on the steps at the old post office, the flags were flying at half mast
And I was thinking about how everyone is dying
And maybe it’s time to live"
The second part of the song describes E encountering some very random things such as a shopkeeper forgetting to give him the correct change, or an old lady thinking he works in a tank station and wanting him to fix his car. All random events that somehow make him smile again. A very important line also is
"Laying in bed tonight I was thinking and listening to all the dogs
And the sirens and the shots
And how a careful man tries to dodge the bullets
While a happy man takes a walk"
The album was bleak and full of songs about subjects such as death, mental illness, … But it ends with a statement of hope that is so well-written this 1 single hopeful song almost manages to make the album in balance. To end an album about such bleak themes with a line "Maybe it’s time to live" alone is one extremely powerful statement.