Reviews

Oh Holy Fools

Author: Joe Tarr
01/11/2001 | Metro Pulse - Knoxville, TN | Album Review
Rock music has always attracted mopey types, the guys and gals who never felt comfortable with their peers and didn't feel girls or boys would ever much go for them. So, it's no surprise that so much of pop music is about misery. One of the best new chroniclers of existential grief is Conor Oberst, who records with various musicians under the name Bright Eyes. He splits this 8-song EP evenly with newcomers Son, Ambulance. Oberst's voice reeks of vulnerability; it quivers, always on the verge of weeping or a screaming bloody rage-often both in the breath of a single word. Whether you see him as a whiny kid or a tormented realist depends on how much you relate to him. On four songs, Oberst continues
documenting his pain, but there are glimmers of hope. "No lies, just love," is the recounting of a near suicide attempt-remembering the note written and the reasons to let go. The connection to others drags him back, and a soon-to-be-born nephew makes him want to change: "My brother's first child, I hope that womb is not too warm/ Because it is
cold out here and it would be quite a shock to breathe this air/ To discover loss..."
Oberst knows what he's doing-detests it, even-but can't seem to stop himself because he thrives on feeling, feeling anything, even if it's pain, which it most always is. The exploitation works both ways, of course: if Oberst is hawking his pain and the pain of others as art, as a living, we're paying him to do our crying. The deeper you get into the misery, the more you wonder if this pain is real (did he really come that close to offing himself?). Then you wonder, would it make the music better or worse if it was
imagined or genuine? Son, Ambulance-the project of another sensitive singer-songwriter, Joe Knapp-also finds a lot of pain in the world, but there is more hope in his voice and lyrics. Knapp is easily saddened, but like Oberst finds hope in children. "Brown Park" is a sweet elegy about watching kids play in the park: "They never taught us how to breathe/ We learned to listen to the wind outside." All in all, Oh Holy Fools is a nice introduction to what could be two of the best songwriters of the future.
Oh Holy Fools

Oh Holy Fools

LP / CD / MP3