Oberst gets away with his excessively snarky introspection, because at least his overwrought sentiments are his own. He sings about what he feels, man! Or, at least what he wants us to think he feels. Remove this heavy-handed confessional mystique and things get ugly. When Bright Eyes shifts from singer-songwriter to plain ol' singer, the result is an artist that is far more commonplace and tedious. Let's be honest—he can't sing a lick. We forgive him, because he's unique! More importantly, he meets that voyeuristic need deep within us to observe a tortured soul poetically wrestle his inner demons (and, just to keep things light, occasionally daydream over a fragile and beautiful relationship) from our perch in the neighbor's tree. We don't listen to Evanescence, watch Big Brother, or read People. Leave that to the lowbrow schlubs. Instead, we listen to Bright Eyes, watch Frontline, and read Dostoevsky. So what do you get when Oberst exposes another man's quintessence for a turn? Your inner voyeur won't find much satisfaction. Neither will your sense of aesthetics. Without the foundation of personal unbosoming, we're left with Oberst's awkward vocal rendering. In other words, a pretty crappy cover.
This disc is purported to "trace Bright Eyes' evolution from basement project to band of international repute." How so? Perhaps a greatest hits compilation could track that progression, but a series of covers and full-length rejects? I'm not buying it. If there's anything here that resembles the peaks in Oberst's career, it's only in the form of a passing shadow or the outline of a rough, cursory sketch. These aren't snippets of a storied career. They're leftovers. Not horrendous leftovers, mind you, but don't give this album much consideration unless you're one of those freaky Bright Eyes über-fans that give self-respecting music snobs such a bad name. In that case, add it to your collection, and start gearing up to convince the rest of the world that, much like Digital Ash, Noise Floor is genius. (A different kind of genius, to be sure.) You've got a tough row to hoe.
LP / CD / MP3
LP / Deluxe LP / CD / Deluxe CD / MP3