Saddle Creek | Bright Eyes | Reviews


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

Author: Chris Cotner
06/26/2003 | | | Album Review
My house has been without the benefit of cable or satellite TV since April. Bright Eyes could have blown up on MTV or MTV2 this spring. They could have already been the subject of a VH1 Special or a Much Music Saturday. The small press packet I got with the CD has the sentence "Oberst's incredible ability to tell stories with his songs and paint intricate pictures with his words is reminiscent, without being derivative, of mid-period Dylan."

I have no idea if any of that is true. What I do know is Conor Oberst's voice reached and grabbed me right in the area just beyond my stomach and right before my spine. That was after opening up the CD by kicking me in the teeth with "The Big Picture." A song that had failure oozing through the speakers when it started and is rescued line by line, note by note, and turned into one of the best songs I have heard this year to open a CD.

Bright Eyes is not a band or group in the usual sense. Led by the singing and songwriting of Conor Oberst, Bright Eyes is a collection of musicians. Conor, only 23, as a lyricist reminds me of what B.B. King told Bono in the movie Rattle and Hum, "Those are might heavy lyrics for such a young man." Also, Bright Eyes, for the most part, stays away from the standard rock and roll songwriting formula. There are only a couple of songs with anything approaching standard choruses. The songs flow forward in a narrative that commands you to listen to LIFTED all the way through and not skip around.

LIFTED is an actual album, rather than a collection of songs. Not one of the songs is filler and not one of them is a stand out single either. The songs on LIFTED need one another as each one is a chapter building on the last (the track listing on the inside cover of the CD makes this even more explicit).

I struggled to come up with a comparison sound to give the reader some idea what they were getting into. Can't quite put my finger on one. I saw one review that compared Conor with Robert Smith. Ok. That works for me, a decent but imperfect analogy. Bright Eyes sounds nothing like The Cure, musically, but I get the comparison vocally. Maybe a better sound analogy would be The Band. Maybe? (Working out my music analogies for the entire world to see is not pretty is it?) Mainly, like The Band, rock and roll has heard something approaching Bright Eyes before but never quite like this.

Good to great music is hard to find. Albums that are compulsively listenable are even harder to find. I could be wrong. I could be way out of touch with what is going on. But, I think LIFTED needs to be . . . no, deserves to be heard, by you, if for no other reason than because to be as good as Bright Eyes are and not be heard, at least once, is musical tragedy.


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