By the time Digital Ash was almost done it was really apparent they were two different records and in my mind it made a lot of sense just to put them out at the same time."
Comparisons with ol' Bobby Zimmerman litter most every paragraph Conor sighs upon, fella can't read a review 'thout the spectre of yon Thin Man wailing from the sidelines. Truth be told, whilst Polyhemnia's certainly been fiddlin the brains of both before now, the stark confessional intensity of much of the Bright Eyes catalogue (as glorious a body of work as man could ever hope to trip over this side of Aristotle) is a far holler from the ingenious smoke-and-mirrors flailing of Mr D. Lines like;
"But there's this burn in my stomach and there's this pain in my side,
When I kneel at the toilet, and the morning's clear light,
Pours in through the window
Sometimes I pray I don't die
I'm a Goddamn hypocrite"
from "Hit The Switch", a breathtaking, ragged highlight of Digital Ash, are impossible to imagine fallin out the face of Bob, 'cept maybe 'round the time of Blood On The Tracks or Time Out Of Mind. Similarly, the heartbreakingly poignant "No Lies, Just Love" from Oh Holy Fools, a number concerning a suicide attempt and featuring the harrowing refrain;
"Please forgive what I have done,
No you can't stay mad at the setting sun,
We all get tired, you know eventually,
There's nothing left to do but sleep"
seems more akin to Loudon Wainwright III at his most intimate, or John Lennon when Paul McCartney wasn't there for to slap the self-obsession out his jowls.
Magnificently, Conor's yack with Tina also throws some welcome glow 'pon the fella's earliest work, with reference even to "Space Invaders", a track from the cassette-only Here's To Special Treatment, one of the first releases on Saddle Creek records (albeit released via a couple hundred hand-assembled copies), a demo-esque affair recorded by the only-just-teenaged Conor Oberst, and with that very moniker on the cover. (Bright Eyes didn't come into play until A Collection Of Songs Recorded 1995-1997 a few years later.)
Thus Spake Conor;
"I wish I would have been more the type of kid that was sitting in the basement practicing guitar scales. That would be kind of helpful at this point (laughs). At the time it wasn't what I was in to. It was more like, "Okay I have two chords, so I'm going to make a song with these two chords with all these things I wanted to say. (…) There was a song called "Space Invaders" kind of about the video game. It was some comparison between trying to keep the spaceships from blowing up your little satellites and it was about keeping whatever adversity I felt in my life away from me. Your frame of reference is definitely a little different at that point (laughs)."