Friday, February 04, 2005

I'm wide awake, it's morning

Yeah, it's an on-the-nose title for a rumination on Bright Eyes, Conor Oberst and the fuming hype machine bearing down his neck, but it seems to fit (for another hour at least).

With the best of intentions and the (almost) most open of minds, I cracked open a friend's promo copy of both "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning" and "Digital Ash in a Digital Urn" by our man Conor Oberst, the ohmygodvoiceofageneration poet-waif du jour who every...single...critic I've read has lionized, adored and stopped just short of carving his face into the side of Radio City Music Hall (or equivalent) to add him to the pantheon.

Unfortunately, nothing makes me more suspicious than universal acclaim (particularly when coupled with a Goldenvoice concert add that featured HEARTS around his smooth little face to promote his Valentine's Day show), but I was willing to give it a shot. I heard Emmylou Harris was involved. I heard talk of a prominent mandolin (a seductive wooden beast if there ever was one) and, most of all, I heard he'd remedied his problem with editing himself, a failing that essentially took his somewhat promising "Lifted" album and turned it into a collection of PeeChee folder poetry set to music.

So off I went. And yeah, the guy's got skills. I'm not going to deny it, he can write his ass off. A few lines were quite vivid, a few others made me cringe, but mostly, he's got a way with the pen. Musically, okay, it was rootsier and better played than I expected. I saw him play with M.Ward and Jim James of My Morning Jacket a few months ago (mostly to see the latter pair) and those guys tore him apart. There were several golden moments of inspired musical collaboration, with James' and Ward's guitars tangling around eachother, and their voices blending seamlessly into the rusty heavens--just an amazing example of two musicians in tune both musically and mentally. Then there was Conor.

Granted, the whole crowd just wanted to reach out and take his narrow frame into its arms, and he could do no wrong in their rapt eyes, but his voice warbled out of key, his guitar clangled and buzzed through clumsy chords and he just couldn't keep up. He was like a baby bird getting slapped around by a pair of pumas. During one very loose campfire jam-feeling song, James and Ward were running circles around eachother and just lifting that hall on their shoulders, and all Conor could do was slap his guitar body from his slouched position on the Barcalounger in the center of the stage. Hey, at least he knew to get out of the way.

Now, back to the album(s). I'll stick mostly to "I'm Wide Awake" because it's garnered the most talk and, frankly, is the much more listenable of the two, didn't grab me. A few good songs--'Another Travellin' Song' in particular sticks out, as does 'Lua,' with its hung-down talk of things not making sense in the morning after making sense at night. Sure, I looked back and related. But, for the most part, its nothing I care to hear again. Maybe I need to give it another spin but, I just don't think it's for me. If I were 19, terribly sad, lonely and heartbroken, I'd be using this album like crack. But I'm not, and I won't. Sorry everyone.

Feel free to jump in here and argue. I'll just go back to sleep.


Post a Comment

<< Home