||The People’s Key
Bright Eyes &
February 1, 2011
Top Two Tracks:
“Triple Spiral” & “Jejune Stars”
|This being my first Bright Eyes album experience, I must say it’s a mixed bag: lyrically excellent, yet musically ranging from masterfully beautiful to far too weird to be listenable. I didn’t expect the sort of alternative country sound I’d heard from Conor Oberst’s Mystic Valley Band when they opened for Wilco a couple summers ago. However, I certainly didn’t expect the sort of spoken word nonsense that stretches for MINUTES across the beginning of the first track (which is a shame, as “Firewall” is actually quite a strong song otherwise) and resurface elsewhere.
On paper, it is understandable why Oberst added Denny Brewer’s “shamanic vocals,” as the liner notes refer to them. After all, they add a certain inimitable spiritual, existential ambience to the record. They also grow old quite quickly and distract from the excellent music being laid out and the even more profoundly impressive lyrics being voiced throughout, especially on standouts like the driving rock track “Triple Spiral” and the early gem “Jejune Stars.” The latter track lyrically raises issues (and the bar) that will stretch throughout the remainder of The People’s Key, as Oberst sings, “Come fire, come water, come karma, we’re all in transition / The Wheel of Becoming erases the physical mind / Till all that remains is a staircase of misinformation / And the code we inherit, the basis, the essence of life … / It’s just so bizarre, is it true what we’re made of? / Why do I hide from the rain?” He is referring, of course, to the fact that our bodies are made up – by an overwhelming percentage – of water, yet we carry umbrellas and seek shelter from the rain.
Elsewhere, though, the songs drag a bit, as on “Approximate Sunlight” and “Ladder Song.” All in all, this could have been an outstanding album rather than one I pay a complisult (see: Community; combination compliment & insult) by writing something like:
The People’s Key falters and falls short at various points, yet there are a series of truly first-rate tracks, like the closer “One for You, One for Me,” which make the album worth the purchase, if you’re willing to skip a few tracks and fast-forward through several others.