Saddle Creek | Bright Eyes | Reviews


Fevers and Mirrors

Author: matt
05/01/2000 | | | Album Review
No matter how sunny, how fresh or how downright springtime it is outside, there's always a sliver of autumn in everyone's heart. Not the Indian summer, go-watch-the-leaves-turn bit, either, but rather the days of gray skies, dead leaves and creeping dread for the approaching winter. Bright Eyes' Fevers and Mirrors sings to that lethargic and grim region held deep inside our breasts.

Peppering its indie folk rock with tape loops, found sounds and occasional odd effects, Fevers and Mirrors continues the Bright Eyes tradition of creating utterly desolate, though nonetheless completely captivating set. With excruciatingly candid lyrics coupled with the band's relaxed passion, this album finds an emotional intensity nearly bright enough to totally consume it listeners.

With the band-singer/songwriter Conor Oberst and a rotating cast of helpers-structuring its songs around Oberst's haunting lyrics, this album finds itself exploring some of the murkiest depths of human psychodrama without the usual pretense accompanying such weighty subject matter. Whether seething in the lonely abandonment of a lost love ("Haligh, Haligh, A Lie, Haligh"), pondering mortality with a chilling calmness ("Center of the World") or sublimely combining the two in heart-stopping alienation ("The Calendar Hung Itself") Oberst's lyrics strike with a stunning clarity, bringing the blotchy gray bugbear of despair to life with frightening lucidity. In a generation full of the postured whining of emo acts and the Champaign-and-strawberries despair of nth generation Goth acts, Oberst's lyrics resound with an identity and passion far removed from the flock of mopey indie rockers.

Though the band's fare, as well as Oberst's delivery, feature the slimmed-down, matter-of-fact simplicity frequently disparaged by critics and producers thick-headed enough to confuse technique with talent, the low-key spirit of this album shouldn't interfere with the band's knack to bedazzle its listeners. Frequently proving background fodder for Oberst's gloriously neurotic ramblings, the understated guitar figures on this album nonetheless provide a distinct and complementary addition to Bright Eye's atmosphere. When the band comes into its own, as in "Haligh..." with a shuffling gait and spooky pedal steel, or "The Calendar Hung Itself," featuring a twisted flamenco beat, the results are some of the most breathtaking tracks this year.

Sometimes, however, the band falters, most notably in its gratuitous use of tape and samples, opening up the album with a segement read by a child out of a juvenile novel and throwing in an unbearably bungled radio interview before "A Song to Pass the Time," making this record lose much of its momentum. With a couple weaker tracks making it past the final cut, such as "A Spindle, A Darkness, A Fever and a Necklace," and "An Attempt to Tip the Scales," listeners are reminded just how much growth Oberst still has left in him; an assurance promising to make even the monumental Fevers and Mirrors pale in comparison.
Fevers and Mirrors

Fevers and Mirrors

LP / CD / MP3