Bright Eyes

Record Review

Phases and Stages

Bright Eyes

Lifted, or the Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground (Saddle Creek)

This goes for all young bands, not just Conor Oberst. Stop taking your tape recorders into your cars with you! There's nothing more annoying than listening to a goddamn turn signal. Everyone already knows about The Futility of This American Life, stop doing it. Ranting aside, Oberst and his support staff have constructed a raw, gritty metatext for the musical experience. The aforementioned car-trip recording is actually a clever little trick. As the "song" progresses, one of the passengers hums along with a song by Oberst, ostensibly on the car's radio. It's an accurate snapshot of the Bright Eyes listening experience: One minute you're directing your friend to turn right, then left; the next, you've glazed over, humming along absently to whatever's on the radio. Oberst runs this idea several ways throughout the course of Lifted ... On the first real song on the album, "Method Acting," Oberst sings, "We need a record of our failures and must document our love," flirting with listeners with his best Robert Smith impersonation. What's more, he dances to different musical styles from track to track, playing country, plain-old rock, and so on. Each new song is an homage to one influence or another, but the clues are so subtle, they tickle the brain in a way that causes a vague, slightly pleasant itch that's impossible to scratch. It makes one wonder whether this guy is a charming copycat or a most calculating musical genius. (Bright Eyes plays the Mercury, Friday, Oct. 4.)

***

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