Saddle Creek | Bright Eyes | Reviews


Every Day and Every Night

11/01/1999 | Sonic Press | | Feature
Let me start this by saying I HATE EMO. Isn't music supposed to be derived from emotion anyways? So to be EMO, as I understand it, you have to intentionally emphasize the "emotion" by whining and screaming, and talking about killing yourself, and having heaps of self pity. Having said that, I love the band Bright Eyes who would probably be catagorized as EMO. This brilliant group from Omaha, Nebraska changed my mind about EMO, or at least they are an exception to the standard interpretation of EMO (Eliminating Mirth and Optimism), the radical militant wing of HOMO (Humans Opposing Mirth and Optimism). At least in Nebraska I could see how these people could actually feel that bad. I should know - every summer as a kid I rode in the family '72 Dodge Tradesman 300 van (upgraded from a '68 VW squareback) from Sunnyvale, California, all the way to North Platte, Nebraska. This is a place that had a liquor store that allowed me, at age 7, to buy three packs of Redman chewing tobacco as a birthday present for grandpa. OK, may be it's not so bad there after all. I just remember being really bored the whole time I was there.

I first saw Bright Eyes around Thanksgiving '99 at a cool little place in downtown San Jose called Channel One. I think a guy from Duster owns the venue. Jeff from the Contrail, a friend of mine who started a local record label called Turn Records, put on the show. There was a really large turnout, and I remember taking a bunch of pictures on a disposable camera, but I haven't developed them yet (I guess that's why I finally got a digital camera). OK, back to Bright Eyes. I was listening to some bands that were playing before Bright Eyes and I was getting a little restless, so I went to a nearby liquor store with my friends Ray and Adam, and got a Fosters 32 oz. When I went back to the club, I walked in the door, and I was immediately pierced by a boy's voice crying out for help, singing with sincerety and wisdom. Lyrics that over-shadowed melody with powerful truth. Needless to say, after the show I bought everything that they had available. When I got in my car, I listened to the CDs over and over again, only to find more and more insights and life stories and things that have happened that allowed me to begin to understand some of the shit that this guy has gone through. Track 2, Padriac my Prince, on their 10 song LP letting off the Happiness starts out with the lyrics :

I had a brother once
He drowned in a bathtub before he had ever learned how to talk
And I don't know what his name was
but my mother does
Padriac, my prince
I have all but died from the sheer weight of my shame
You cried but no one came
and the water filled your tiny lungs.

I thought Mark Kozelek of the Red House Painters was candid. Bright Eyes makes RHP seem like industry convoluted pop.

I saw Bright Eyes for the second time in Austin, Texas at the SXSW music festival. I only got to see a few songs, but it was the highlight of my trip. I must have seen two dozen other bands that I can't, and don't even want to, remember. I got to hear a line allows progress, a circle does not from the Every Day and Every Night EP. Mandolin on that song was a nice treat. It was was a really intimate show. Every one on stage was seated, and only the vocals and a few of the acoustic instruments were miked. My only regret is that I didn't get there earlier.

After the show, I saw saw a few musicians out back, and I thought that they might have been in Bright Eyes (I couldn't really see too well because the stage was really low and the entire audience was standing.) It turns out that they were in two other bands that were labelmates with Bright Eyes. I took a chance, and bought both of their albums. I've got to hand it to Saddle Creek for cultivating such a ripe group of musicians. One of the bands, called The Faint, sounds like Filter meets Duran Duran, with a bit of Erasure or DM. I can't believe they are even American. It is so interesting to see these really different bands coming from this isolated farming area. Cursive is another band from Nebraska. These guys are a little too close to EMO for my taste, but the guitars are really cool. I think these guys have been listening to the Promise Ring a little too much. The music has a start-stop quality that is really dynamic. I did like track 6 - proposals. It had a genuine quality that I could identify with. In most of the songs, the screaming seems a little insincere to me, but I will cut them some slack since they are friends with Bright Eyes.

Nebraska, keep on rockin' in the bread basket of America, and keep cultivating these present and future stars of rock and roll.


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