Artist: Bright Eyes
Title: I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
Label: Saddle Creek
Catalogue Number: LBJ-72
Year of Release: 2005
1 At The Bottom Of Everything (4:34)
2 We Are Nowhere And It's Now (4:12)
3 Old Soul Song (For The New World Order) (4:29)
4 Lua (4:31)
5 Train Under Water (6:06)
6 First Day Of My Life (3:08)
7 Another Travelin' Song (4:16)
8 Land Locked Blues (5:47)
9 Poison Oak (4:39)
10 Road To Joy (3:54)
I'll admit I came a bit late to the Bright Eyes party. He'd completely passed me by until I heard a snippet of Lua on Daniel Kitson's show Stories for the Wobbly Hearted. I immediately bought this album, and its partner Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, and since then the compilation Noise Floor and latest album Cassadaga. I think it would be fair to say that it's this album I currently like and know best, although that may change as I work through the others and give them a fairer listen.
Compared to its partner this album is the more accessible, containing well-arranged country-tinged folk-rock. It's also well structured, from the narrative opening passage of At The Bottom of Everything to the cacophonous ending of Road to Joy, passing through ups and downs along the way.
I gather, from reading around, that lyrics were something of an Achilles' heel for Conor in the past. Occasionally bloated and overwrought, his shoehorning ill-fitting metaphors together and crunching ideas to fit some took as shoddy workmanship, others (fans) as 'authenticity'. There are some great lyrics on this record, the opening track in particular is a near faultless modern pop song, critical of the modern world whilst exuberant about the possibilities.
But the We Are Nowhere, And It's Now begins
If you hate the taste of wine
Why do you drink it 'til you’re blind?
And if you swear that there’s no truth and who cares
How come you say it like you’re right?
Which is nothing more than the argument between two pretentious teenagers who've stolen drink from their parents.
And whilst musically this is an excellent record, featuring beautifully crafted songs, Conor still has an issue with lyrics, as he writes in only the way a 23-year-old boy can. To illustrate this take Lua, the tune that got me into Bright Eyes. The most delicate song on the album, a simple strummed acoustic number about a relationship that isn't going to last between two people who both seem intent on getting as wrecked as possible each night. There's a maturity in the lyrics dealing with the relationship, but not with the substances:
I’ve got a flask inside my pocket we can share it on the train
If you promise to stay conscious I will try and do the same
We might die from medication, but we sure killed all the pain
But what was normal in the evening, by the morning seems insane.
Which is about as deep as a Spiritualized lyric, and quietly celebrates drugs in the same manner.
There is much more to like here than not though, and I'd recommend getting yourself a copy of this record, or at the very least keeping an eye on the new project Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band.