Oh Holy Fools
Author: Jonathen Stuart
This is a split album composed of four new songs each by Bright Eyes and Son, Ambulance. The opener, “Brown Park" is the first speciman we have heard by songwriter Joe Knapp of Son, Ambulance. It's a summary, poppy piano-driven tune sounding like a mix between Belle and Sebastian and a touch of Magnetic Fields; the catchiest of his four by far. His voice is fine, a little delicate, perhaps the less-troubled but still-troubled older brother of Conor Oberst. His next song, “The Invention of Beauty", begins a downturn towards lighter, adult contemporary tunes, in the vein of the Aluminum Group of the Sea & Cake. Bright Eyes doesn't diverge from the intent of the last album, Fevers and Mirrors, though that line he so nearly crossed on the previous recording has been breached on Oh, Holy Fools. Fevers and Mirrrors remained first and foremost a collection of folk-pop songs, never allowing the diary-entries to overstep their bounds. He continues his heart-felt, ever more honest emotional exploration., but it sometimes bombastic and overstated, as on the closer, “Kathy With a K's Song", where he flails in an over-the-top vibrato, “Love is Real, it is not just in long distance commercials." If there was a detachment iin his voice, allowing room for irony, then I could accept this line as a humerous, but not empty, little quip. But no, he propels himself deep into the words, obscuring any intended emotion. It's obvious he's very capable of articulating genuine sentiments in refreshing ways, such as when he sings on “No Lies, Just Love", “It's just lately I've been feeling like I don't belong, like the ground's not mine to walk on...and I sat watching a flower as it was withering. I was embarrased by its honesty." This is one of the perfect expressions of pure loneliness. Oberst's power lies in his ability to hone in on of the most fundamental elements of a specific experience and sing them with the precise fervor of the moment. Hopefully he'll continue to focus on storytelling without feeling the need to add extraneous drama.