The People's Key
Author: John Norris
Say it ain't so, C.O. Say that, despite what you've intimated in the past year or two, that The People's Key, your big, bold, head-in-the-cosmos latest full-length won't in fact be the last we hear from Bright Eyes.Conor Oberst demurs on that big question in this week's edition of Face Time, in a conversation taped in December. He doesn't commit one way or the other on the retirement of a name that has for nearly fifteen years come to be synonymous with indie folk-Americana, a name that put Saddle Creek Records and Omaha music in general, on the map. So we'll see. But rather than hand-wring about Bright Eyes shutting for good, let's celebrate this epic new album. And on that score, Oberst has plenty to say."For whatever reason," he tells Noisevox, "I guess 'confessional' writing kind of just wore thin on me after a while, both doing it and hearing it." That may come as a surprise to those who have only been half paying attention to Oberst's evolution as a songwriter. But the insular, lyrical sharing (some would say over sharing) of the Fevers and Mirrors and Lifted era is a distant memory. That kid is long gone, has been for some time, replaced by a humanist looking increasingly outward, not claiming to have all the answers, but never ever unwilling to ask the questions. He takes those questions up a notch or two on The People's Key, an album inspired in part by Oberst's interest in the futurist sci-fi writings of Margaret Atwood, Arthur C. Clarke and Phillip K. Dick, and also by a fascination with Rastafarian culture and in particular with the late Ethiopian leader Haile Selassie. Religion looms large, with references to the Holy Trinity and the second coming, as does immigration, one of many issues close to Oberst's big and generous heart.Religion and politics _ supposedly the conversational taboos. And yet, when talking to Conor Oberst, how can you not talk about em? So we do, including touching on war, the deficit, the president and how he's doing, and lots more. One of the great singer-songwriters of this, or any generation this week. Face Time presents conversation and music with Bright Eyes.