The People's Key
Author: Marie Scarsella
2/14/11 | Barlich College Ticker | www.theticker.org | Record Review
Rumored to be the final Bright Eyes record, The People's Key is brimming with intriguing lyrics."You have to believe in the future and what we have to do, and progress/ We always progress/ We try to," the introductory words to first track, "Firewall," is just some of them, and if taken seriously, the eerie voice rambling on throughout the record proves that Bright Eyes is the perfect example of such progression.After 2007's Cassadaga explored the sounds of Americana, the band has certainly made a valiant effort on The People's Key to move forward, putting a more mature, varied spin on their old sound."Firewall" isn't just about its thought-provoking introduction. Incorporating a Nirvana-inspired guitar riff, Conor Oberst's familiar voice gently croons and perplexes, leaving the listener wondering if Bright Eyes has decided to take a grunge-oriented turn.However, the next few tracks quickly dispel that thought. Turning the tables and bringing forth heavy synthesizers, the songs are somewhat reminiscent of 2005's Digital Ash in a Digital Urn."Shell Games," the album's first single, features lyrics that draw on the band's past records, making the upbeat track one of the most captivating. Oberst discusses "fireworks and the vanity, the circuit board and the city streets, the shooting stars, swaying palm trees," which plays upon prior album art. Using melancholy electronic effects, he's seemingly paying homage to '80s icon Robert Smith."Named after the Ethiopian leader and notable Rastafarian thinker, the track "Haile Selassie," holds a steady, ear-catching beat. It also contains one of the most interesting themes of the record taken from Selassie's teachings on Rastafarianism. Belting out lines such as "You've got a soul, use it," and "One love," Selassie's influence not only creates for an interesting piece, but for a positive tone throughout.It's easy to get lost in the whirring new-age instruments in The People's Key. That is, however, until "Ladder Song" starts. Oberst is heard at his rawest since I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, by creating a powerful ballad. Claiming nobody is unique in death, the song takes a rather depressing turn, yet creates a feeling of oneness between fan and artist.Closing with the rhythmic, simplistic "One for You, One for Me," the band seems to pays tribute to all people _ from the ruling class to the poor, from tyrant to conquered. In a fascinating and thoughtful way to end the record, Oberst sings, "You and I, that is an awful lie. It's I and I." Whether it's social commentary or pessimism, it's certainly an extremely enticing finish.If it's true that this really is the final Bright Eyes record, it's safe to say the group is leaving on a high note. The People's Key easily exhibits some of Bright Eyes' best work to date. It shows a record of achievement only attributed to artists ever evolving with their successful careers. With that said, not only are the words that open the album relevant, but they also hold true in proving that nothing but greatness comes from the desire to progress.