Monday, January 19, 2009

A Tear in Conor Oberst’s Beer?

Conor Oberst’s first solo effort in some thirteen years, titled Conor Oberst oddly enough (I think he should’ve gone all out and added “Mullen,” his middle name), is a stripped-down version of Bright Eyes, his blistering traveling punk hootenanny. Gone are the pillowy orchestrations, meandering French horn solos, sprawling arrangements, and guest background vocals by such sparkling lights as M. Ward and Emmylou Harris. Replacing all that are twelve songs where Oberst’s acerbic thumbnosing, his plaintive love songs, and drunken phantasmagorias take center-stage without all the lacy doilies. Oh yeah—we must not forget the farting conch shell.

In “Souled Out!!!” our wandering troubadour travels to the barrio where “all you need’s an electric razor, a magic bullet and a grassy knoll,” where “the whole world’s just a little oyster to Snow White and the Poisoned Apples.” “Cape Canaveral” is populated by petty thieves, smoking migrants, and it’s the place where our hero learns that “victory’s sweet even deep in the cheap seats.” Here we find Oberst in full-flight after all his lessons with those moonshine-soused Flying Burrito Brothers. “Sausalito” is a bone dry “drive through the desert after night fall” where “bikers glide by highway shrines” and “pilgrims disappear.” The sad-eyed lover pleads with his woman to live with him on a house boat in Sausalito where they’ll be rocked to sleep by the ocean, and where they can “in the morning with the sunrise, look in the water, see the blue sky, as if heaven has been laid there at our feet.” A Conor Oberst recording is incomplete without a song where his languid warble unravels, where he whips his vocal cords, where he finally and cathartically breaks out into hysterics. And, in “I Don’t Want to Die (In the Hospital), he delivers, providing that glorious moment where we finally find him falling apart. And fess up, you know want him to.

Label: Merge Records
Release date: Aug 5, 2008

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