Reviews

Fevers and Mirrors

Author: Stephanie McNutt
07/05/2000 | Milkmag.com | www.milkmag.com | Album Review
Fires caused by lightning are both a hindrance and a blessing to the forests they consume--taking away the old and, eventually, replacing it with new growth. Some pinecones only release their seeds during fires. In harnessing both the destructive and creative power of his personal fire, depression and pain, Conor Oberst [the main force behind Omaha's Bright Eyes] continues in his path of fiercely independent songwriting with Fevers and Mirrors.

While being obviously lyric and vocal-driven, Bright Eyes' music sounds just as meticulously crafted as the words under which it plays. Though hints of "boy-and-his-acoustic-guitar" bedroom pop may surface, the songs on Fevers and Mirrors need to be experienced in order to be believed. Oberst pointedly defies the restraints of categorization. Every song is an amazingly descriptive narrative, be it from his own repertoire of experiences or the calendar of another (existent or not). His vocals are delicate yet tortured, tremulous and intensely emotional, with a vulnerability that makes listening to this album feel almost voyeuristic. Multiple layers of sound are created by an enhanced version of the basic band, including glockenspiel, piano, accordion, flute and mandolin [a complex array similar to that of labelmates Lullaby for the Working Class] in arrangements are alternately lush and sparse, adding a sorrowful atmosphere to an already melancholy picture.

It is difficult to express the air of Fevers and Mirrors without including multiple songs' worth of lyrics. Titles like "The Calendar Hung Itself," "An Attempt to Tip the Scales," and "When the Curious Girl Realizes She is Under Glass" convey the loneliness, frustration, self-loathing, and grief found in Oberst's words. Despite the fact that many of his topics have been widely explored by his basement-recording predecessors, Oberst has, in 3 full-length releases, already found a unique way to elevate himself above the stereotypes and pigeonholes of said genre. Clocks, mirrors, calendars, scales, and fevers are common subject matter. "Don't leave me here, with only mirrors watching me," he howls in "Arienette," "This house it holds nothing but the memories..." Near the end of "Sunrise, Sunset," a seemingly self-accusatory waltz, Oberst wails, "So it's true, the trick is complete / Now you have become everything you said that you never would be," pauses, then screams, "You're a fool..." His anguish is clearly audible, and its effect is incredibly poignant. A five-minute, scripted "interview" pokes fun at the media's constant need to immerse itself in artists' personal lives.. and one can see, with music this intensely personal, how curious they might get. Oberst and his gang of self-contained demons show us that sometimes sadness, as well as its cruel accompaniments, can be the most formative force in life.
"It's kind of like walking out a door to discover it's a window."

Fevers and Mirrors

Fevers and Mirrors

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