The People's Key
2/11/11 | Bowlegsmusic.com | www.bowlegsmusic.com | Live Show Preview
'Lick the solar plexus of some L.A shamen' could only come from Conor Oberst, a man endlessly spewing original one-liners. His ability to shuffle, arrange and mutate his thoughts into unique narratives is something that eludes many an artist _ their stale take on broken hearts is as good as it gets. And if that wasn't enough, the Canadian musician has got the voice. The slightly sneered, the slightly angry _ the sound of a man left wanting, if only slightly. That said 'The People's Key', while stronger than the last few Oberst releases under Bright Eyes and the Mystic Valley Band, is still not up to the musician's finest.The songs are pretty good, the words are better, the voice is great but the music and production is far too warm and rounded to provide an edge. There is little grit here for the singer to walk upon, just big guitars, analogue synths and easy beats, all cleaned up to within an inch of their instrumental lives.The initial response is a stirring set of major to minor chords that induce excitement and melancholy in equal measure, but the honeymoon period is short lived. The touching 'Ladder Games' goes the distance, a lonely piano the only companion to Oberst's close to breaking performance. And if you want a big, bold belter then turn up 'Shell Games', from the unsubtle, rock-induced intro, to the power chords and the throbbing synths.When you have created 'I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning' you have set yourself a high bar, and though this is still a good record,it's just a reach or two away from the man's best.