Conor Oberst has potential. That is about all I got from reading reviews in about every magazine publication, even Rolling Stone compares him to every famous singer whose last name is Smith, and they especially love to compare him to Bob Dylan. But what you also read in these reviews is what Bright Eyes is lacking: a distinct and simple style of songwriting, varying styles of music, and consistent emotion track by track. If Conor could do all these things he could make a classic record. And this is exactly what he does on “I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning”.
“At The Bottom Of Everything”, starts out and you almost dismiss it as another mediocre album opener for Bright Eyes. The story really doesn’t go anywhere, but it is very interesting, and the instruments do a great job of building up until the true lyrics kick in. The lyrics in the song are fast paced and very well done, and cliché and well thought of lyrics are spewed out one line after another. This really is a style you have never heard from Bright Eyes at this point in his career, the song has some very well played acoustic guitar, which gives the song sort of a folky atmosphere. The atmosphere the song creates fits Bright Eyes lyrics perfectly, and this is something that he had struggled with on his previous efforts.
We must blend into the choir
Sing as static with the whole
We must memorize nine numbers and deny we have a soul
And in this endless race for property and privilege to be won
We must run, we must run, we must run
“At The Bottom Of Everything”, flows beautifully into the instant classic “We Are Nowhere And It’s Now”, a song that is probably one of the few songs in Conor’s career where the lyrical intensity is matched by instrumental variety. The lyrics in this song are very direct and not as complex and metaphorical as Oberst previous songs: “If you hate the taste of wine/Why do you drink it til your blind?” “I’ve been sleeping so strange/ with a head full of pesticide”. The song constantly builds momentum instrumentally from the begging of the song where Oberst is singing almost in a whisper, to where he is singing the breakdown in a completely different tone. The song also presents itself with a folk like feel, but the lyrics still match the instruments perfectly.
I got no plans and too much time
I feel too restless to unwind
I’m always lost in thought
As I walk a block to my favourite neon sign
“Old Soul Song”, is just an awesome song. It, like “We Are Nowhere And Its Now”, keeps on building momentum instrumentally and lyrically throughout the whole song. For example, the song starts out with some casual and witty lyrics and Oberst barely singing “yeah they went wild” in the chorus. But by the end of the song Oberst is screaming “yeah they go wild” and one of the best breakdowns you will ever hear follows it. Oberst screams: “and just when I get so lonesome I can’t speak” to an absolutely brilliant acoustic guitar with some piano barely heard in the background. The chorus is once again brilliant and you are starting to get the track-by-track consistency that Oberst once lacked.
”And just when I get so lonesome I cant speak
I see some flowers on the hillside
Like a wall of new TVs
Ya they go wild”
“Lua”, is probably the worst song on the album but it still has some of the best lyrics. The song just doesn’t build momentum and it doesn’t seem like any emotion is invested into it. The lyrics almost save this song as Oberst whispers: “when everything is lonely I can be my own best friend/ get the coffee and the paper have my own conversations”. Probably the low point of the album, the song doesn’t accomplish anything except being a nice and slow love song.
“I’ve got a flask inside my pocket we can share it on the train
If you promise to stay conscious I will try and do the same
We might die from medication, but we sure killed all the pain
But what was normal in the evening, by the morning seems insane.”
“Train Under Water”, picks up where the first three songs had left off. The song contains the most complex lyrical theme on the album and probably one of the catchier choruses. The chorus is just absolutely perfect as Oberst sort of sings in a low monotone voice, and the backup vocals and the electric guitar in the background add some flavor to the chorus. The song even contains a guitar solo, which leads nicely into Oberst complex yet direct lyrics. What Oberst does in this song that most artist simply cannot do is sing complex lyrics and have them still match a folk like beat, and this makes the song a lot more engaging and appealing. “Train Under Water”, gives the album its momentum back.
“Well if I could tame
All of my desires
Wait out the weather that howls in my brain
Because it seems
That it's always changing
The winds indecision
The sorrowful rain”
“First Day Of My Life”, is an excellent song, and it maybe one of the best loves songs written in this century. Oberst just does a great job matching his well-written lyrics to a faster acoustic guitar and really shows off his variety in vocals. When Oberst sings “I don’t care/ I could go anywhere with you and I probably be happy”, and it leads perfectly into the chorus, it is one of the peaks of the album.
“So if you want to be with me
With these things there’s no telling
We just have to wait and see
But I’d rather be working for a paycheck
Than waiting to win the lottery
Besides maybe this time is different
I mean I really think you like me”
“Another Travelin’ Song”, is a great change of pace song for the album. To this point most of the songs had been building momentum instrumentally as they went on, but with this song it remains fast the whole time. And even though the beat of the song is changed, the lyrics still remain brilliant. This song really brings out the instrumental variety in this album as the guitar seems to be barely even playing in the second set of supporting lyrics and there seems to be something electronic going on in the background. The chorus is very catchy, and though the song is different it does not detract from the quality of the album as a whole.
“So I will find my fears and face them
Or I will cower like a dog
I will kick and scream or kneel and plead
I’ll fight like hell to hide that I’ve given up”
“Land Locked Blues”, is easily one of the best political orientated songs I have ever heard. In most politically driven songs the lyrics try to be way to direct and the song are way to fast, but in “Land Locked Blues” the lyrics are absolutely brilliant and the song varies in tempo throughout. There is no way to understate how great the lyrics in this song are, they are honestly some of the best I have ever seen written. But besides that this song basically follows the formula of what has made this album a “classic” up to this point: great lyrics, variation in tempo, and excellent backup vocals.
We made love on the living room floor
With the noise in the background of a televised war
And in the deafening pleasure I thought I heard someone say
“If we walk away, they’ll walk away”
But greed is a bottomless pit
And our freedom’s a joke
We’re just taking a piss
And the whole world must watch the sad comic display
If you’re still free start running away
Cause we’re coming for you!
“Poison Oak”, despite its weird lyrical themes is probably the best song on the album. The song starts out with Oberst singing softly to an electric guitar, and you think that this is going to be like any other song on the album. But the songs “interesting” lyrics and its TWO absolutely awesome breakdowns separate it from anything we had heard prior to this. The breakdowns are great because they contain the best lyrics of the album, the best instrument work on the album, and some of the most emotion on the album. The song is just brilliant and is highly recommended.
But me I'm a single cell
On a serpents tongue
There's a muddy field where a garden was
And I'm glad you got away
But I'm still stuck out here
My clothes are soaking wet
From your brother's tears
And I never thought this life was possible
You're the yellow bird that I've been waiting for
The end of paralysis
I was a statuette
Now I'm drunk as hell on a piano bench
And when I press the keys
It all gets reversed
The sound of loneliness makes me happier
“Road To Joy”, is easily the most intense and fast song on the album yet it is a perfect closing song for “I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning”. The song consistent speed and its reflective and political lyrics [which is actually rare on this album] make it another classic song on this album. The songs chorus is great and so is the instrumental variety.
So when you’re asked to fight a war that’s over nothing
It’s best to join the side that’s gonna win
And no one’s sure how all of this got started
But we’re gonna make them goddam certain how its gonna end
Oh ya we will, oh ya we will!
In “I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning”, Conor Oberst corrects his minor flaws and makes a classic record. He not only corrects his flaws, but he masters them which makes this such a awesome listen. People have always said that Conor Oberst is a grat artist, but he is no Bob Dylan, and I agree Oberst isn’t Bob Dylan. Oberst is better than Bob Dylan.