Feb 092011
Authors: Matt Miller

Connor Oberst, the front man and soul of Bright Eyes has always been somewhat of an enigma.  His mystic, Dylanesque lyricism and intimate voice has captured a generation of youth intent on getting lost in his music, crying with him, yelling with him and dreaming with him.

Throughout his 16-year career he has been everything from an emotional wreck lost in his own head, to a folk hero telling stories of America.  On his latest release, “The People’s Key,” Oberst’s music seems to have lost its honesty.

His mind travels to new and often weird places, but the instrumentation is fixed with an urge to be more rock driven rather than his traditional indie-folk influences.

Bright Eyes’ songs, once characterized by intimacy, seem on “People’s” to be hiding behind a wall of poppy hooks. 

The music and production may suffer, but the writing, on what may be Bright Eyes’ last album, is as strong as ever. “One for the righteous one for the ruling class/one for the tyrant one for the slaughtered lamb,” Oberst sings in his classic, crackling whimper on “One for You, One for Me.”

Although there are moments of the dirty and louder “Digital Ash In A Digital Urn,” and moments of the gentle folk of “I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning,” Oberst seems to be showing his age. The song construction seems to have lost its former luster –– now more generic than personal.

On “Ladder Song,” a glimpse at the classic Bright Eyes passion Oberst sings, “I want to fly in your silver ship/let Jesus hang and Buddha sit.” This slow piano ballad doesn’t try to be anything that it’s not. He even brings out his newly found wisdom with the cryptic prose he is known for in the line, “Welcome the new age covered in warrior paint.”

It could be an end for Bright Eyes but not for Oberst. He is a lyrical master and can connect with the deepest parts of the soul. 

On “Jejune Stars” he says, “How’d I get so lost I’m amazed,” and although he may be lost on “The People’s Key,” he will find himself again with a new story to tell.

Entertainment Editor Matt Miller can be reached at verve@collegain.com.

 Posted by at 4:56 pm

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