Reviews

Oh Holy Fools

Author: J. Garbriel Boylan
02/14/2001 | Philadelphia Weekly | www.philadelphiaweekly.com | Album Review
The recipe: 1 cup holwing passion, 1 tbs. whispering despair, 1 tbs. mumbling resignation, a pinch of toy piano and a dash of mandolin.

If you know anything about Bright Eyes, you know the stakes are pretty high in Conor Oberst's confessional, intense and hyperbolically melancholy musical world. For example: "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." Ungh! Take that, irony! How you like me now, cynicism?! Oberst's music is so straightforward in its utter-lack-of-hope-then-return-to-something-like-hope-if-I-could-just-stop-this-self-loathing, it feels almost silly or creepy, unless somewhere deep down you believe that honesty exists and kind of rules. The recipe is that of early Violent Femmes or Nick Cave or Tom Waits: 1 cup howling passion, 1 tbs. whispering despair, 1 tbs. mumbling resignation, a pinch of toy piano, a dash of mandolin and flute and musical theater to taste. The dish still sounds fresh coming from Oberst and his chums--and speaking of whom, half this record is not Bright Eyes. It's Oberst's bestest pal, Joe Knapp, and his band Son, Ambulance. Knapp's ditties pile on the honesty and provide sweet if somewhat pedestrian breaks from the histrionics of Bright Eyes. It's basically two sides of the same coin, since Knapp wants to make you cry just as much as Oberst does, but will do so by singing a song about his kid or telling you how beautiful you are with just a light, swinging guitar strum, a soft drum and some chimes. But let's admit it: If you bought into the whole "honesty" thing, you were just looking for an excuse to cry anyway. So ... so get on with it you (sniffle) ... you big simpering ... (sob). B+


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