The chances are that a good proportion of those who of late came into possession of a copy of Bright Eyes' more recent opus, "Fevers and Mirrors", listened, and loved, were at least tempted by this re-released collection of songs from when Conor Oberst - the trembly young thing behind both records - was all of eighteen. Like most prodigies-of-sorts to some degree, the man has apparently had to weather a fair amount of embarrassingly literal interpretation - hence the later album's parody interview. So will this timely reminder of earlier outpourings help his case? And (let's get to the point here) should you buy it? The answer to that last, at least, is a qualified yes.
In some ways, after "Fevers and Mirrors", this is a frustrating record to listen to. It all depends, you see, on how unashamedly you choose to sympathise with the naked yearnings therein. There are times when you too, curled around some written-down radiator, reading meaning into some blank ceiling, brushing some carpet with nervous fingertips to check the real is still real - well, pick your disaffection of choice - might just be ambushed by a stray moment of translucent poetry. This honest and eloquent a version of pretty universal experiences (winter/summer, love semi-realised, the first time those clumsily shaped chords ring true) is hard to resist, and the passion behind them is undeniable. But with the less unified, less commanding tone that tends to result from a collection of home recordings, the gorgeously awkward ("I can't breathe with these words in my mouth") can too easily turn into the awkward awkward ("the brokenness inside as hope and less collide; now nothing is real..."). Still, for anyone who's ever longed to leave town - and haven't we all sometimes? - "If Winter Ends" sums the desperation up nicely, and "Pull My Hair" celebrates sticky summertime lust with the best of 'em.
Really, like so much else devoid of overmuch 'ironic' detachment, this album should only be advised against in the case of those who are apt to take it too seriously.
7Kate Dornan's Score