Bright Eyes’ latest EP builds anticipation for the future
It drips with nostalgia. The last few moments before a train rolls to a stop. Putting a car into gear and turning it off. The last seconds before the sun sets in a hot sky.
“Come on in my weary friend/your welcome here is endless,” singer/poster emo child Conor Oberst pushes out on “Smoke Without Fire.”
The group gets it across. Bright Eyes is growing up. This isn’t an awkward growth spurt. Four Winds, the group’s latest EP, is a matter of self-realization.
It’s a collection of six songs to prep for the release of their next full-length album Cassadaga, pegged for an April 10 release.
Released on Saddle Creek Records
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The title track sets the tone for what is a twisted journey through this new edition of Bright Eyes. We see ruminations of the political commentary that critics ate up on 2005’s I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. Outspoken, unabashed attack, though, doesn’t fit this new attitude.
And the claims are more forthright than ever – conversational almost. Honky-tonked over a swaggering melody (complete with an electric organ part), “The Bible’s blind, the Torah’s deaf, the Qu’ran’s mute / If you learn them all together you get close to the truth still.”
“Reinvent the Wheel” shoots listeners running in slow motion, like the feeling a feel-good movie soundtrack inspires. The strings part and harmonica are a borderline corny ’90s flashback, but the irony is that Bright Eyes has recycled a recurring theme in a brilliant throwback to big hair adult contemporary, making it their own.
Guest singer M. Ward saves “Smoke Without Fire,” which strays into whininess but still shines because of the contrast between Ward and Obrest’s voices. There are acne scars on “Cartoon Blues.” Obrest laments life and being human, but the rhythm and energy is “like a new constitution” – the truth.
The monotonous “Tourist Trap” is Four Winds’ best offering – it comes off as introspective country. The dead dogs and lost lovers are in between the lines. “Trap” is a tell-tale tribute to the road. The detachment and character of every small town the band has rolled through, that any band visits, comes out in naked voice over marching beat. “I don’t think I’ll unpack / because I’m not sure if I live here any more,” Oberst confesses.
He hasn’t given us any reason to want him to. Four Winds is a throwback to the past, beginning-less story of Bright Eyes, an admittance that growing up doesn’t have to be complicated but is always messy. There’s a realization that there’s both more and less to live for; we don’t know what we are until we’re done.
If the crafted split-personality of Four Winds is any indication, Cassadaga should be the shattered, schizophrenic episode that might just age Obrest and his band into establishment.
Contact ALL correspondent Adam Griffiths at [email protected]