Thursday, February 03, 2011

Oh Me Oh My...Bright Eyes!!

For a long time it was hip to like BRIGHT EYES in that hipper than thou, kids with thick rimmed glasses sort of way. People praised Conor Oberst for his obtuse lyrics (in some circles going so far as tabbing him the next Dylan). Then they sort of disappeared. The austentaciousness of releasing separate albums at the same time smacked of Prince/Ryan Adams level narcissism. (Note to bands: one good record is always better than two mediocre ones. We as listeners don't have time or the energy to sift through the rubble to find the hidden gems.) I admit that I never really gave "Cassadaga" much attention since at that point I had kind of removed myself from the alt-folk universe.

Oberst has gone on to record with other monikers, in fact this latest release is said to be the last under the Bright Eyes handle, and has explored some new directions but I imagine most people expected him to eventually to return to his roots, so to speak. Well, "The People's Key" is his take on the eventual resting place for this incarnation. Using snippets of spoken word lectures about life in alternate universes and a larger synth presence, "Key" is the final combination of the dueling versions of the band. "Shell Games" is a straight up pop song not unlike BEN LEE's finer work. "Approximate Sunlight" is that navel gazing, slow folk we have come to expect, but that is suddenly jettisoned for the political ramble of "Hallie Selassie". "A Machine Spiritual" has that kind of off key minor style that has developed over time to be copied by a ton of other lesser artists. "Triple Spiral" returns to the poppier sound, as if a blatant attempt to garner airplay (if such a thing even exists anymore). The closer, the elegiac "One For You, One For Me" is what U2 was aiming for on it's last record with a fine mixture of synth, R and B, and spiritual seeking of acceptance.

If this in fact the end this musical thought for Oberst, it's a nice coda. Not as adventurous as his earlier work, but a mature re imagination of his style that will lead him into new ventures invigorated by the possibilities of what may come...

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