Reviews

Lifted or The Story is in the Soil....

Author: Adam Gnade
08/13/2002 | Muddle | Album Review
Bright Eyes -- "Lifted or the Story is in the Soil Keep Your Ear to the Ground" -- AND Bright Eyes -- "Thereís No Beginning to the Story EP" -- AND -- the Beach Boys "Pet Sounds" -- CD.
I just recently got promos of both these Bright Eyes records, so Iíll keep it short ... as thereís a whole lot more of this that needs to seep in before I can truly dish. From what I can see so far, the EP starts off a new era for Conor Oberst -- a torch that the full-length, "Lifted," takes up and runs with: Bright Eyes-does-"Pet-Sounds." See, where "Pet Sounds" saw Beach Boy Brian Wilson nearing a point of epiphany in his life, "Thereís No" and "Lifted" show Oberst on the verge of both a spiritual and coming-of-age life crisis. Donít believe your parentsí burnt-out ex-hippy friends when they tell you the Beach Boys were all fun-in-the-sun, letterman sweaters and surfiní safaris. The real story behind "Pet Sounds" is that it is a pained, anguished, heart-wrenching record. You have young Brian Wilson -- while he was still of angelic voice and white hot mind -- at a stormy precipice in his life where heís confused, lonely and trying to figure out why he keeps losing with love and fucking things up with all his friends. And thatís where a lot of indie pop bands go wrong; they worship "Pet Sounds" but limit themselves to the orchestrations, ignoring the lyrics, which are, of course, the bigger picture. So, when Oberst sings "the pictureís far too big to look at, kid/ your eyes wonít open wide enough" on the first track off "Lifted," heís right where Papa Wilson was more than 35 years ago. On the same token, while the lyrics document a time of change in Oberstís life, the music itself canít be ignored. Where "Pet Sounds" dallies in Tiki Room exotica, cinematic arrangements and Esquivel castoffs, both "Lifted" and "Thereís No" show the so-labeled "Bright Eyes collective" acting as a good collective should: tossing together a funky sour mash of banjos, keyboard fills, rock guitars, field recordings, pedal steel, wild timpani rolls, cellos, trip hop beats (yeah, true), strings and horns to make a tangled-up-in-co untry-blues, Americana rock orchestra which verges on Elephant 6, while always going back to Oberst, an acoustic guitar and his heady grasp of the language. But I digress. Itís late now -- around 3am -- so I guess I should tie this one off. This has been a heavy week, hard, ugly times at every turn. Two days ago, one of the kids I run around with overdosed after a night of liquor, somas and heroin, and died too young. He was a sweet, brilliant, savagely talented kid and the fact that heís gone is tearing a gash in me the likes of which I haven't seen in quite some time. Other things are falling to pieces, too. Everybody around me is hurting, hiding-out, mourning like theyíve got gaping black holes for eyes. Heroin is back in the scene, tenfold. Everybodyís unemployed, shooting up in bedrooms, bored, angry. Talent is rotting on the vine where ever you look. Ants are taking over my house in dark, long lines, and I havenít taken out the trash in weeks. Just today, one of my close friends took off from the East County rehab sheís been comfortably healing in for the last few months. 8 hours after she left, no one knows where she is -- though Iím worried as fuck that sheís gone back home to Long Beach, and to the needle. Thus, Iím playing this record loud right now -- for them and me and you and us -- and Iíll probably play it all night. In the depths of all the shit thatís going on, in the dirty suckhole that San Diego has become, I feel like Conor Oberst and I might be seeing eye-to-eye -- cliched and straight outta the emo chatrooms as that might sound, itís true. Iëm being honest. So, while every boat around me is losing its bearings and dashing on the rocks, Iím at home, drinking from a sticky-necked bottle of French brandy and listening to this record, because like Oberst says on "Lifted," heavy shit feels better when youíre singing. (Saddle Creek, Bright Eyes) (Capitol, Beach Boys)


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