Saddle Creek | Bright Eyes | Reviews


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

Author: Kai Stearns
04/26/2003 | | | Album Review
A lot of singers are called "the new Bob Dylan." It's the music press's favorite way to say that an astute songwriter is on the scene. Well, Bright Eyes' 23-year-old frontman, Conor Oberst, is no Dylan-but that's just fine with him. The most important thing to Oberst is self-expression, and his songs are filled with his unique way of looking at the world.

Bright Eyes is actually a band with a revolving lineup of musicians; the only constant is Oberst. Each new tour and album sees him picking different friends for backup, amazingly talented people mostly gleaned from his Saddle Creek label's impressive roster of players.

Bright Eyes' latest offering is Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground. To say this CD has literary roots is an understatement. The jacket cover is formatted like a novel, complete with contents, chapters, illustrations, and an epilogue. The songs themselves are inspired, complex, and verbose. Oberst has an interesting turn of phrase and captures the subtleties of emotion with his reedy, searching voice. He's like the ultimate book-on-tape narrator: He growls, he pleads, he smiles, he wins you over at the end.

This disk is full of gems. In "Method Acting," Oberst discovers the ability of art to make life livable: "Boys, keep strumming those guitars / We need a record of our failures / We must document our love / I have sat too long in my silence / I have grown too old in my pain." "Lover I Don't Have to Love" is a haunting, melodic, sexy, Cure throwback you'll listen to again and again. "False Advertising" sounds like a carnival ride on acid, Oberst lamenting, "If I could act like this was my real life / And not some cage where I've been placed / Then I could tell you the truth like I used to and not be afraid of sounding fake / Now all that anyone is listening for are the mistakes."

Bright Eyes rewards the careful listener with a passion, insight, and intelligence missing from a lot of today's music. Check them out at


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