There's some good lyrics here looking for a song, or even a melody, by a man who...
Darren Overs Pearson 2005-01-24
Conor Oberst proves that you don't need a multinational record company to create a lot of hype. Still, Bright Eyes occupying both numbers one and two in the US Billboard Hot 100 singles sales chart is somewhat surprising. I'm Wide Awake It's Morning is full of promising starts that go nowhere. Some good lyrics looking for a song, or even a melody, by a man who thinks pathos is drinking wine from the neck...
"Lua" is the most successful song on the album. Its simplicity of lyric and production, featuring just voice and guitar, brings a poignancy that's sadly absent elsewhere on the record.
On the whole, Oberst's voice and lyrics tend to leave the listener a little cold, the worst culprit being the hackneyed protest dirge "Land Locked Blues". Is it a love song, an anti-Bush rant, obtuse, clichéd or all of these? Even Emmylou Harris' vocal doesn't save the day.
The band handle the folk and country themes very nicely, especially Mike Mogis' soaring pedal steel on "Old Soul Song" and "Train Underwater". Unfortunately, "At The Bottom Of Everything" and "Another Travelling Song" tend to sound like pastiches.
The problem with Oberst is not the fact that he's a dullard but a dullard who's been told he's clever. This is a man so prolific he has to release two albums (the other being Digital Ash In A Digital Urn) simultaneously, when there is barely enough decent material for one. Although Digital Ash... has a different treatment altogether, the same problems exist; it goes nowhere.
At his best, he sounds a little like Beck at his worst. After listening to this record you'll realise that drinking, nihilism and soured relationships don't seem so interesting or, for that matter, entertaining.