Saddle Creek | Desaparecidos | Reviews


Read Music / Speak Spanish

Author: A.K. Gold
03/24/2002 | Nude as the News | | Album Review
Don't call Desaparecidos a Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) side project. This full-fledged rock'n'roll five-piece takes its name from the Spanish word for "the disappeared;" the term "desaparecidos" is often used to connote the thousands of individuals who vanished under the rule of Argentina's military junta in the late 1970s and early '80s.

The Omaha band's debut LP Read Music/Speak Spanish doesn't extend its tribute to the victims of the junta beyond the band name, but it does address the gluttonous consumerism and overall homogenization of Americans and their landscape. Though the observations sometimes sound like the arguments a high schooler makes upon his first encounter with "The Communist Manifesto," songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Conor Oberst frantically screams things like "opportunity, no it don't exist / it's the opiate of the populace" and the band samples conversations about Starbucks and lines from infomercials with enough conviction to carry it off.

The full-length starts strong, but falls off near the end. Denver Dalley displays his dexterity through chugging guitar lines on the anthemic "Manana" and "Mall Of America" and sometimes edgy, sometimes melodic phrases on "Greater Omaha."

Throughout most of the record, Ian McElroy's keyboards beep with gusto, and Landon Hedges and Matt Baum's rhythm work is plain tight. However, the record's final two tracks just don't pack the punch of their predecessors. "$$$$" is a decent enough song, but the effects on Oberst's vocals and the straightforwardness of the hook leave something to be desired. Album closer "Hole in One" features one of the most annoying keyboard parts I've heard in a long while. A strong first effort, but not the second coming some folks are deeming it to be.


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