Fevers and Mirrors
Author: Troy Johnson
07/01/2000 | SLAMM | Album Review
Of the two possible ways to handle depression -- paying big bucks for psychotherapy or making music out of it and possible making money -- the music world should be glad Conor Oberst chose the latter. Fevers and Mirrors is Oberst's third full-length album -- a lo-fi record made on 24-tracks, which is a complex apparatus for such a miminalist goal. "A Spindle, A Darkness, A Fever, A Necklace" opens with a sample of a child laboring through a reading lesson, the low tick of a metronome, and what sounds like Oberst helping the tyke along. Oberst -- barely over 20 himself -- sets the tone, making this a soundtrack of youth struggling through what seem easy tasks to the rest of the 'well-adjusted' world. The album creates a physical space -- you get the feeling that Oberst moves from one haunted room to another as he tells stripped, acoustic diary tales of unbalance and yearning. And, in "When the Curious Girl Realizes She Is Under Glass," Oberst sounds as though he's in another room entirely, wallowing his loud vibrato through an open bedroom door. There's the salsa-spiked "The Calendar Hung Itself,' his quickest child, and the lurching, mirror-melodicism of "Haligh, Haligh, a Lie, Haligh,' a swaying, sultry, love-gone ode with piano, organ, guitar, and bells. When Oberst inserts a six-minute mock interview between himself and an impotent radio DJ at the end of "An Attempt to Tip the Scales," discussing his depression without hailing a cab-full of pity, one senses the dark humor that makes rolling in this spilled soul an insightful treat.