Rhythm & Views

Bright Eyes

I don't know one person who feels sorry for Conor Oberst. On the surface, his life appears pretty rosy--legions of fans, Hollywood girlfriends and a cozy New York City pad. Yet, dammit, the guy can capture angst, unease and sadness nearly perfectly in a song.

Oberst's Bright Eyes toured nearly nonstop last year supporting the dually released albums I'm Wide Awake, Its Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn. Wisely, Oberst opted to release cuts from his Wide Awake tour over the often-grating Digital Ash tour for Motion Sickness, the band's recent live album.

The album cherry-picks from the tour with a handful of songs from the band's more recent catalog, several B-sides and two covers. Although it's nice to see that Oberst now seems comfortable in the role of bandleader, his decision to include the awkward (if accurate) "When the President Talks to God" is a misfire. Ditto for most of the B-sides ("Southern State" stands alone as an appropriate selection) and the Feist and Elliott Smith covers--which neither add to nor impressively revamp the originals.

Luckily, Bright Eyes is in an extremely fertile period, and the shitkicker sounds of the Wide Awake album--particularly the incendiary "Road to Joy" and mournful "We Are Nowhere and It's Now"--are outstanding live. Elsewhere, the Fevers and Mirrors classic "A Scale, a Mirror and Those Indifferent Clocks" is renamed "Scale" and nicely retooled with a country edge, while "Make War" from Lifted ... now sounds like a bona fide honky-tonk classic.

Overall, with a bevy of solid tunes finely captured in the live setting, diehards will have little to complain about. Thankfully, the same cannot be said of Oberst.

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