Reviews

Noise Floor

01/11/2007 | Punknews.org | www.punknews.org | Album Review
A couple years ago, a band that everyone likes around these parts
released a record of rarities and B-sides. That album was, rightfully
so, praised for a stunning coherence of sound and attitude, a feat few
compilation albums are able to attain.

Well, chalk up another one right up there next to Cocktails & Dreams.

Conor Oberst's Bright Eyes is an act that people seem to either love
or hate, and we don't have to go into that argument here. I would
simply say this: If you like Bright Eyes, you will not be disappointed
by this collection. If you don't like Bright Eyes, I seriously doubt
this album is going to change your mind.

Noise Floor is a collection of rarities and B-sides from 1998 through
2005, marking what I would say is the highlight of Oberst's recording
career: the despair-filled days of Fevers and Mirrors and the
absolutely magnificent Lifted.... First, we'll start with the good of
the compilation.

For one, it's remarkably well-produced. To be honest it took a few
spins and some old research of EPs and B-sides to realize that the
entire thing hadn't been re-recorded in a single session. It's that
coherent. The record starts off amazing, with various sound bytes from
the past, through the beat-oriented "I WIll Be Grateful for This Day"
to my personal favorite track on the disc, "The Trees Get Wheeled
Away," which I had first heard years ago on David Letterman.

And I'd say that's one of the real strongpoints of this album; Bright
Eyes does some pretty obscure compilations and splits, vinyl-only
releases, things that are pretty hard to find for those not motivated
to be discography owners. There's a lot on this album that I had never
heard before, unlike on the aforementioned Cocktails & Dreams.

The record continues...and then keeps going.

I've never really been bored with a Bright Eyes album. I really enjoy
Oberst as a lyricist and this is his strongest time (my opinion, here)
as far as his songwriting abilities. From my aforementioned favorite
track:

Anchormen spike their blood / wear masks of mud / cucumbers cut to
fill their eyes. / And so no one would know how tired they've grown /
of talking and telling their lies. / While your TVs change stations /
scroll messages / victims and Christians both drinking blood, / and
they pray for the destruction of all hatred / more often, just those
with hate for us.
And while the songwriting never fails throughout the album, around
two-thirds of the way through, it musically hits a lull. While
Lifted... is longer by 10 minutes, it also is a complete work that is
mixed to maintain a flow and interest. Tracks 9 through 12 ("Weather
Reports" through "Amy in the White Coat") on Noise Floor are all
fairly Oberst-and-guitar centric, and not until the chanting, clapping
sing-along of "Devil Town" does the album regain some velocity.

However, the biggest fault of this record is not in the slow second
act. The biggest fault is the lack of including the now infamous "When
the President Talks to God." Yes, I realize that it's available on
iTunes, but some of us digital music elitists would rather not support
Steve Jobs' DRM-encoded empire. Also, it seems like an obvious choice
of inclusion, what with Oberst gaining press for singing it on The
Tonight Show.

My personal year-end list put this record at a nice spot at #13. I
really think that this is a very strong collection, and for any Oberst
fan, it will be a good addition to your collection. If you've never
heard Bright Eyes, this actually could be a good introduction to a
large period of time where Oberst wrote some of his best songs. Just
be mindful, this is not perfect, at least not nearly as perfect as
Lifted.... But it's pretty damn close.
Noise Floor

Noise Floor

LP / CD / MP3