Reviews

Fevers and Mirrors

Author: Everett True
08/01/2000 | New York Press | Album Review
It's rare that pop music reaches such depths of emotion. A 20-year-old Nebraskan, Conner Oberst first started detailing his desire and lack of fulfillment six years ago, as a 14-year-old prodigy in Commander Venus-and if the third album from his new band Bright Eyes is anything to go by, one can only imagine that a major cult will grow up around this mysterious ex-Catholic. If one hasn't already. (The lady behind Her Space Holiday's despair has already gone over to Oberst's side, inspiring the other band's sometimes wonderful, self-immolating Home Is Where You Hang Yourself debut.)

Oberst has a wonderful way around a tortured motif and fuzzily-recorded guitar riff. He sometimes sings frantically, like a latter-day fucked-up Leonard Cohen, but his music-as cut-up, filled with spindly, lo-fi keyboards and drums as it is-recalls the 20s glare of Brecht's cabaret. Songs such as "The Calendar Hung Itself" and "Something Vague" also recall Daniel Johnston, both for their intensity of passion and absolute despair.

The pivotal track is the opening "A Spindle, a Darkness, a Fever & a Necklace," wherein the Nebraskan's trembling voice attempts to answer a fuzzy recording of a child pleading a dread of separation, and fails. (Later on, there's a sequenced six-minute interview track, where Oberst tries to answer some of the questions he's set himself, but ends the chat by leaving even more unanswered.) As the record progresses, Oberst's fear of being left alone (by parents, by friends, by love) becomes ever more apparent, as the melodies turn even more poignant, more beautiful. Tinny keyboards, rapid-fire drums and the odd guitar sweeten the mix. This is a stunning, haunting album.
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