Reviews

Oh Holy Fools

Author: Thomas Prindle
01/23/2001 | Instant magazine | www.instantmag.com | Album Review
In what will probably secure me a single triumph in the marbled halls and gold-leafed ceilings of the INSTANT magazine offices, yet another strong recommendation has been issued to you, the reader, to hear the new sound of indie-rock that mixes originality and emotion with a whole lot of talent from Omaha, Nebraska.

Now that SonicNet (basically MTV, right?) is telling its readers that, yes, Bright Eyes are one of this year's artists/bands to watch (where the hell was Sonicnet last year?), Saddle Creek releases a compilation of sorts that is The Music of Son, Ambulance and Bright Eyes. A similar release had been issued last summer through Insound.com's tour support series that featured the four-track sounding recordings of both Ambulance and Bright Eyes. Oh Holy Fools maintains the idea of Omaha's own musical network (i.e. Elephant 6) that features Joe Knapp and his Son, Ambulance, Conor Oberst and his Bright Eyes, and the ever-so-crucial Mike Mogis recording it all at his Deadspace studio (not to mention contributing bass, pedal steel, vibraphone, synthstrings, mandolin, electric piano, electric guitar, percussion, and voice). Son, Ambulance open the Oh Holy Fools album with the song "Brown Park" that sounds as original as it does vintage. When Joe Knapp sings "Then I will sleigh by you on an incline," his unique vocal sound mixed with piano, wah-pedal guitar, and synthstring accompaniment puts me in the way back of my mom's late 60's Dodge Monaco wagon, complete with wood paneling, on the way to the local saucer/sled hill with childhood friends. Toying with a theme that has been previously seen on Bright Eyes record's that recognizes ghost-like imagery that may or may not be there, "Katie Come True" questions the identity of a symbolic figure.

Borrowing an idea and quote from Hunter S. Thompson's second volume of letters Fear and Loathing in America, Thompson relates to then Rolling Stone editor John Lombardi in 1970 that "music is the New Literature." The context then being "that Dylan is the 1960's answer to Hemingway," it is quite possible to state that Conor Oberst with his four contributed Oh Holy Fools recordings is more along the lines of this transitional millenium's answer to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Considered by some as "sad" or troubling songs, Conor writes what might be considered fictional truths. Creating a memorable character in the song "Going for the Gold", Conor sings, "I know a girl who cries when she practices violin. Because each note sounds so pure it just cuts into her and then the melody comes pouring out her eyes. Now, to me, everything else just sounds like a lie." The songs "Oh, you are the roots that sleep beneath my feet and hold the earth in place", "No lies, just love", and "Kathy with a K's song" reveal a distinctive poignancy in lyric that is escalated with crafted song. And it is that final Bright Eyes song on the Oh Holy Fools album, and only previously heard at Bright Eyes live shows, that has been recorded with the Mogis touch to include a song ending element that can only be heard to understand "...And I can hear it now."
Oh Holy Fools

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