Reviews

Cassadaga

Author: Justin Kloczko
04/09/2007 | Central Connecticut State Recorder | www.ccsu.edu/ | Album Review
After six albums, five EPs, a Christmas, live and b-sides album, with a punk band on the side, one might call it a career. At 27, Conor Oberst is just warming up.

Bright Eyes has always been a band you either love or hate, an acquired taste. At the core, Oberst has proven himself as a latter day Guthrie. On their seventh album, Cassadaga, the musical moniker that is Bright Eyes has settled down to Oberst, long time multi-instrumentalist and producer Mike Mogis and trumpeter and string arranger Nate Walcott. Cassadaga still enlists Saddle Creek musicians and special guests Gillian Welch, M. Ward and Rachel Yamagata.

The songs on Cassadaga continue the progression of Bright Eyes music, with each album being very different from the last, but still something chronological. Cassadaga, with it references to sťances, mystics and nature's wrath, encompasses a person traveling around America in search of solace. If I had to compare it to any of their previous work, it would be the cinematic soundscape of Lifted, doused with a psychedelic-country twinge.

Still, no Bright Eyes album would be complete without the foreboding prospect of the world coming to an end. "Future markets, holy wars / Been tried 10 thousand times before / If you think that God is keeping score, Hooray!" sets the tone for a vision of America that is wild and unjust on "Clairaudients."

The tradition in the first song on their albums as being sort of a "set-up" for the rest of the songs continues here with the transition into "Four Winds," a song that kicks off the pilgrimage across America. "And I was off to old Dakota where a genocide sleeps / In the Black Hills, the Badlands, the calloused East / I buried my ballast. I made my peace."

According to Oberst, he found solace in the spiritualist community of Cassadaga, Florida. He said he received the same feeling people get when they go to a place like Mecca.

On "If The Brakeman Turns My Way," Oberst addresses an interesting outlook in his prolific writing. "All this automatic writing I have tried to understand / From a psychedelic angel who was tugging on my hand / It's an infinite coincidence but it doesn't form a plan." The assertion that his writing is ultimately a source of something unexplainable and uncontrollable, is a myth that goes back to Dylan, which the writer is someone who is tapped by something greater. I've often thought about this. Dylan would many times not understand what he was writing about, or where it came from. Some say it was God. Oberst voices this same sentiment.

The loose distortion of "Coat Check Dream Song" paints a great picture of someone tripping on drugs in public, with "The ecstasy still in my spine." The musical apex of Cassadaga is captured in the pedal steel licked, "I Must Belong Somwhere," a song about just letting things be as they are. "Everything it must belong somewhere / Just like the gold around her finger or the silver in his hair / Everything it must belong somewhere / I know that now, that's why I'm staying here."
Cassadaga

Cassadaga

LP / CD / MP3