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Bright Eyes | Lifted or the Story is in the Soil Keep Your Ear to the Ground (Saddle Creek/ Wichita)
'Ferocious' - maybe, but I prefer to think of Bright Eyes as thoughtful. Well, they can be one in the same depending on your perspective. Following the ferocity, following the thought, I am comforted by the knowledge gained that Conor Oberst grows in the direction of his listener. He's not as random as he might seem. He is on the path, shedding the veils, step by step by step. Growing up with a mission impossible and delivering truth and fiction on the back of rambunctious indie-rock. He certainly makes you think. From a Balance Beam describes the end of now as our narrator cuts out early: "I lifted one foot to cross the other and I felt myself slipping. It was a small mistake. Sometimes that's all it takes." But he leaves us contemplating... "and so it never started and it will never stop just like I am and you are." No answers. Maybe there never are. Much of the rest of this long player is in a similar contemplative vein, there is definitely something stirring inside. Perhaps Bright Eyes are to the Meaning of Life what Punk Rock was to the Establishment. The Big Picture paints portraits of belief and disbelief with a kind of respect for the opponent and a firmness of position that is both admirable and verging on temptation. There is an angelic quality to the aim present throughout the album, highlighted on Method Acting (perhaps it's just the "ah-ah"'s of his church choir). Returning to the signature lullaby sound of 'Fevers and Mirrors', Lover I Don't Have to Love is of the slow-build variety and a drawn-out intensity ("Love's and excuse to hurt and to be hurt / Do you like to hurt ?? I do, I do..."). One of the highlights of this album is the country-ish ramble of Bowl of Oranges which is uplifting in both sound and content - "Just hold my hand, I think that would help / So I sat with him a while and asked him how he felt / He said 'I think I'm cured / No, in fact I am sure / Thank you stranger for your therapeutic smile'.") Waste of Paint on the other hand is long ranting tale of misery ("everything I made is trite and cheap and a waste of paint, of tape, of time"), anger, loneliness and hope in vain ("try to just keep moving on with my broken heart and my absent God and I have no faith but it's all I want to be loved and believe in my soul"). Lifted or the Story is in the Soil / Keep Your Ear to the Ground is an album of contemplation. It is not without hope ?? but never without pain. It wouldn't be Bright Eyes if it made you happy.

Tracy Lee Jackson
CWAS #11 - Autumn 2002