Artist: Bright Eyes
Title: Noise Floor
Format: Double LP Gatefold
Label: Saddle Creek
Catalogue Number: SCE99V
Year of Release: 2006
A1 Mirrors And Fevers
A2 I Will Be Grateful For This Day
A3 Trees Get Wheeled Away
A4 Drunk Kid Catholic
A5 Spent On Rainy Days
A6 The Vanishing Act
B1 Soon You Will Be Leaving Your Man
B2 Blue Angels Air Show
B3 Weather Reports
B4 Seashell Tale
B5 Bad Blood
C1 Amy In The White Coat
C2 Devil Town
C3 I've Been Eating (For You)
C4 Happy Birthday To Me (Feb. 15)
C5 Motion Sickness
D1 Act Of Contrition
D2 Hungry For A Holiday
D3 When The Curious Girl Realizes She Is Under Glass Again
D4 Entry Way Song
D5 It's Cool, We Can Still Be Friends
Passably interesting compilation that I bought when I thought I'd be more interested in Bright Eyes than I actually ended up, in the event.
It's a rag-bag collection of rarities, from lo-fi demos to more polished efforts for singles or compilations on obscure labels (some so obscure they never actually got released); mostly original tunes, but some cover versions and collaborations.
To treat the cover versions first, Devil Town is a Daniel Johnston tune. Now I saw The Devil & Daniel Johnston, and what I saw was a tragic but half-heart-warming tale of a man trying to cope with mental illness. I did not see a genius songwriter. I saw many well-meaning, but ultimately misguided people, trying to help a mentally unstable man, who cannot write songs or draw very well, fulfil his deluded ambitions.
I was living in a devil town
I didn't know it was a devil town
Oh lord it really brings me down about the devil town
All my friends were vampires
I didn't know they were vampires
It turns out I was a vampire myself in the devil town
OK, lyrically it beats some pop music, but I find it hard to see how Conor can "relate to this song a great deal". And I am aware that the terms 'devil town' and 'vampire' are being used metaphorically, I don't need the song's meaning spelt out to me. I just don't think it's that good a song.
The word 'genius' is bandied about all too easily these days, and all the more easily when there may be a whiff of idiot savant or genuine naivety behind the supposed genius. I didn't mean this review to be a rant about Daniel Johnston, I honestly wish him well, but find the media deification of him abhorrent.
The other straightforward cover is an M.Ward tune Seashell Tale from the End of Amnesia album, which is in a different league.
There are four collaborations: I Will Be Grateful for This Day (with Mike Mogis, now a permanent member of the Bright Eyes band and producer of large chunks of Digital Ash...); Spent on Rainy Days (with Britt Daniel of Spoon); Bad Blood and Hungry for a Holiday (both with Jimmy LaVelle aka The Album Leaf).
Grateful is interesting in being four years ahead of Digital Ash, and it stands out from the rest of the compilation solely because of its programming. It is otherwise a terrible song. Spent also has a different, rockier feel to most of the Bright Eyes only tunes. The two with Jimmy LaVelle are standard fey indie.
The remaining self-penned numbers vary from wallowing in drink, bitter about rejection and full of self-pity, backed by acoustic guitar, to full-band expressions of loneliness and anger. Trees Get Wheeled Away is a pretty good example of the latter, Vanishing Act the former.
Allmusicguide has a more even-handed review than their previous hatchet job on I'm Wide Awake... and there are a few snippets to listen to as well. The Pitchfork review contains a nice line, "Oberst's lyrics always tread the thin line between sublimely maudlin and banally maudlin", but the links to mp3s & stream of the album at the foot of the review don't work. This could be due to them linking to www.saddle-creek.com rather than www.saddlecreekrecords.com/, which might also mean the free voucher I've posted a picture of above might not work either - but feel free to try it as I haven't.
There's a rather telling quote from the insert booklet containing brief information on each tune. For the last number It's Cool We Can Still Be Friends Conor writes, "Another naive, heavy-handed song about first love lost." Which shows only a limited level of self-awareness.