Oh Holy Fools
Author: Laura Learmonth
01/22/2001 | Seattle Weekly | Album Review
In a recent interview with an online 'zine, Joe Knapp of Son, Ambulance surmised that his forefathers moved to Omaha, Neb., in order to find security. Knapp suggested that the landlocked, flat geography implied safety from the elements, a place of refuge from the uneven coasts. But this split CD features eight tracks that belie the idea of sanctuary. Nebraskans Knapp and Conor Oberst, the creative force behind the critically acclaimed Bright Eyes, wallow in emotional danger. The two skate on thin ice, their songs illustrating a burning sense of unrest. Oberst, who has three full-length releases as Bright Eyes, uses melancholy, plucked guitar notes, lamenting flutes, and pained caterwauling as the rocks in the pocket of his drowning songs. "No Lies, Just Love," the story of a contemplated suicide and a boy embarrassed by the honesty of a wilting flower, may be difficult for Bright Eyes fans to sit through. Although he insists his songs are fiction, Oberst's personal frailty is increasingly evident. By comparison, Knapp's lyrics are more reserved, his vocals even and less urgent. But taken alone, the Son, Ambulance songs uncover a heart that is every bit as openly disenchanted as Oberst's. Knapp, a former Bright Eyes drummer, often supplements his lyrics with Elvis Costello-like bouncing piano lines, polarizing and isolating the sadness of his stories with the contrasting bright keys. Fans of Bright Eyes are accustomed to fielding his vulnerability and acute anxiety, and it's a good bet--and a keen marketing move--that Knapp will find an accepting audience among Oberst's admirers.
Bright Eyes play the Paradox on February 27.