Reviews

Digital Ash in a Digital Urn

Author: Kevin Courtney
01/07/2005 | The Irish Times | Album Review
The elfin Conor Oberst has sneakily become American alt.rock's biggest success story of 2004, snatching the top two slots on the Billboard Hot 100 with the simultaneously released singles, Lua and Take It Easy (Love Nothing). Now here are the two parent albums, showing the many facets of Oberst's kaleidoscopic talent. The Nebraskan with the trembling, shell-shocked voice has built up a huge cult following over the years, but it seems his time has finally come, so you can't really blame him for grabbing the glory with both CDs. The first CD contains such folksy alt.country blues songs as Old Soul Song, Train Under Water and Another Travelin' Song, and features Emmylou Harris on guest vocals.

The second CD mixes an electronic Kid A ambience with freaked-out lyrical imagery (the 24-year-old seems obsessed with clocks). Time Code, Down In A Rabbit Hole and Devil In The Details are 21st century schizoid tunes, while I Believe In Symmetry and Light Pollution sound like they were fashioned out of twisted remnants of MTV-era pop from the 1980s. Oberst is certainly a unique voice in rock, capable of getting all cosy by the campfire one minute, and then short-circuiting in a blaze of self-doubt, but until he manages to pull his many frayed strands together and get his shattered worldview into sharper focus, he will always seem a little less than the sum of his disjointed parts.


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