So who is this “voice of his generation”? This “next Dylan”? This “Indie heart-throb”? This Conor Oberst?
OK, so the first time I really started paying much attention to Conor Oberst/Bright Eyes’ was last fall when he was out on the Vote For Change tour.
Last month, I caught Bright Eyes on Austin City Limits with Wilco and was intrigued enough to dig a little deeper.
So I learned the standard biography background stuff like Conor Oberst refuses to record for major labels, shuns corporate radio and won’t play venues owned by Clear Channel Communications. OK, so cool.
And he’s got a couple of new CDs out — I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn.
Then I heard the NPR Live Web-Cast of the Bright Eyes concert at Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club. One song in particular struck me which sounded like the ranting of an angry – yet wise – young man. A song written specifically for our hometown’s most famous resident.
So who is this “voice of his generation” who’s been writing and recording introspective tunes since he was 14?
As Caryn writes on Jukebox Graduate the “obligatory bright eyes posting” of the new Conor Oberst song “When The President Talks To God” lyrics:
“It’s a great, biting, eloquent talking blues, in the spirit of Woody and Arlo and Steve Earle. Writing a song like this is tough to do, it’s not just the lyrics that are important, it’s the tune and the performance and the delivery, and it’s freaking masterful.”
And the indie press has been all over him and bloggers are ga-ga.
Rather than the usual Bob Dylan comparison, recently we got a comparison to Eminem in Technician Online?! Grayson Currin writes on Conor Oberst, the “precocious poet laureate of the indie world”:
“Eminem is restating both his popularity and his ability to hold a large part of the American youth in rapture, hanging on his every flip and slam. Marshall Mathers — a 32-year-old rapper from Detroit — commands an obedient, trusting audience, and he knows it.
And, as strange as it may sound, Conor Oberst — a 24-year-old singer/songwriter from Omaha — isn’t that different. Oberst, who has recorded with a revolving cast of band members under the name Bright Eyes since 1998, commands an equally attentive if smaller audience. Both writers are fully aware of their character flaws and prodigious talents, and both of them bleed through in striking four-minute poses. Mathers and Oberst are separate, incomparable beasts, of course, but — when it comes to finding an audience and making it shut up and listen — they are ironically equivalent masters. “
At last month’s concert in Toronto, Frank on chromewaves.net writes:
“But that’s not the curious thing about the show. I went down onto the floor between the main set and the encore to retrieve my camera from the coat check, and some of the audience down there were behaving like they’d just witnessed the rapture (the Biblical event, not the band). There was one girl I saw crying through the whole encore, and others who looked on the verge of tears or ecstasy. It was as if they were experiencing a completely different show than me – they were taking it in on another level entirely… It’s sort of hard to explain, but it was strange. I felt like a tourist.”
As Joel Caris writes on a Blocritics review:
“Conor Oberst is one hell of a musician and it’s kind of ridiculous that he has managed to release two albums simulataneously that are of such high quality. This guy can sing and write, period. The lyrics are amazing on both albums, though they really shine on I’m Wide Awake.”
Not enough Conor yet? Here’s a recent NPR chat with Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes.
More Bright Eyes photos from Austin City Limits.