Reviews

Lifted or The Story is in the Soil....

Author: Richard Cromelin
08/11/2002 | LA Times | Album Review
Bright Eyes ''Lifted'' (Saddle Creek). 4 stars
The new album from indie-rock wunderkind Conor Oberst (due in stores
Tuesday) comes complete with a subtitle, ''Or the Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground.'' Normally, this kind of thing - not to mention a 73-minute running time and interludes of dialogue and ambient sound - would be a red flag signaling pretension and self-indulgence. But Oberst pulls off everything in this sprawling, bravura work with ease and command, avoiding the pitfalls that sometimes claimed artists whom 'Lifted'' might bring to mind, including Billy Corgan and Ryan Adams. Oberst is the star of the increasingly prominent Omaha rock scene, and ''Lifted'' reflects a Great Plains mentality in the way it spreads unimpeded, taking as much time and as many words as it needs to tell its story. This picaresque journey of discovery through an internal landscape includes existential contemplations, skeptical confrontations with theological issues, and insistent testimony on the ability of music to lead one from the wilderness. It's told in terms both abstract and down to earth, narrative and confessional. Whether he's presenting himself as a solo troubadour singing with face-to-face intimacy or an ambitious orchestrator crafting environments reminiscent of ''Pet Sounds'' Beach Boys, early Cure or Gram Parsons country-rock, Oberst refuses to be ignored. Oberst, just 20, has already put out one of the year's best albums, February's ''Read Music/Speak Spanish'' by his side group, Desaparecidos. This might be the strongest single-year double punch since David Bowie released ''Low'' and ''Heroes'' in 1977.


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