By Jamie Jolley
It was with the 2007 release of eponymous solo acoustic folk album, Conor Oberst, that the lead singer of Bright Eyes began his exploration of spiritualism and myth.
This solo album seemed to signal a departure from the deep and moody introspection that coloured previous releases alongside his band.
Their latest release, The People’s Key, continues on this theme but hails a return to a rockier-electric sound.
The opening track, Firewall, sets the tone, confirming Oberst’s continuing abandonment of the emotional and neurotic intensity of his early work.
The beginning of the album features a nameless voice expelling his ideas about lizard men impregnating the human race, set against an eerie synthesized background.
Eventually he gives way to a stripped down guitar riff but the track never really seems to fully take off.
The rest of the album follows suit and there’s a disappointing lack of progress. It’s always good to see a musician exploring new avenues instead of churning out the same old style but this new found spiritualism just doesn’t seem to fit for Bright Eyes.
The mysticism of Oberst’s lyrics is impregnable and confusing and their significance is easily lost on those who are not well versed on The Lion of Judah and Rastafarianism.
Most of the songs sound just as impersonal as the lyrics – One for You, One for Me trundles along with a repetitive chorus that sounds so thinning you could strip paint with it. Personally I’d rather watch the paint dry first.
Not that the album is without some merit. Bright Eyes are after all proven musicians and, even at their worst, are still capable of writing quality songs. Jejune Stars is energetic and full of passion and is a reminder that there’s still some life left in the band.
But I’d still trade this for another play of their 2005 album I’m Wide Awake it’s Morning any day.