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    Bright Eyes

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    Digital Ash In A Digital Urn 8 ( 2005 )
    Time Code / Gold Mine Gutted / Arc of Time (Time Code) / Down in a Rabbit Hole / Take it Easy (Love Nothing) / Hit the Switch / I Believe in Symmetry / Devil in the Details / Ship in a Bottle / Light Pollution / Theme to Piņata / Easy-Lucky-Free

    I'm half asleep this afternoon. I'm listening to only my second Bright Eyes album aware that this is something of a black sheep in the Bright Eyes discography. Released at the same time as a more instantly welcoming acoustic record, this is the apparent experimental disc that only partially works. I'm paraphrasing because you see, I don't actually know. I'm entering this blissfully unaware of 'I'm Wide Awake This Morning' or earlier Bright Eyes works. After first hearing 'Digital Ash In A Digital Urn' of course I thought it very different to 'Cassadaga' which was, confusingly if you're reading this page chronologically, the first Bright Eyes album I heard and reviewed. Well, sometimes doing things backwards stops you following the crowd. Making yourself think harder can be an ideal aid to objectivity rather than relying on what the general consensus might happen to be. Right? Good! For starters, let's begin by saying this album for an album dubbed experimental isn't very experimental. It's got bass, drums, acoustic and electric guitars, synths, machines and programming. Quite a lot of albums have those exact same elements. This is no 'Kid A' style mash-up and the songs are constructed in a time honoured 'rock music' fasion. Well, the opening 'Time Code' is a Cure styled instrumental circa '17 Seconds' and 'Gold Mine Gutted' is a Cure styled mid-tempo rocker circa 'Wish'. One thing that does bother me slightly is the effect placed on the vocals, making them sound like Robert Smith with a hiccup. When the melodies are as lovely as they are during the latter part of 'Gold Mine Gutted' ( lovely synth melodies ) it hardly matters, though.

    'Down In A Rabbit Hole' is a stunning track with a dark atmosphere, programmed beats, strings, metallic electric guitars and above all, melody. It sounds like it belongs accompanying an important emotional moment in a movie thriller. Contrasting this is the fun and bouncy pop music of 'Take It Easy'. You know it's pop music, it's got eighties synths, 'love' in the title ( see brackets! ), beats that sound like recent Flaming Lips albums and is generally very fine indeed. 'Hit The Switch' is another Cure styled pop number, another excellent moment on an LP liberally spinkled with excellent moments if you care to listen. 'I Believe In Symmetry' has great strings as it changes mid-way through and the closing number is just plain stone cold gorgeous. Experimental gorgeous. Synth and machines gorgeous. Tellingly, he drops the sheep in his voice, or at least, so it temporarily seems during moments of 'Easy-Lucky-Free'. True, a few moments on the second half of the album do slip towards mediocre but this is a brave stylistic move for Bright Eyes. Fans predictably dismissed the record, concentrating on the more approachable 'Wide Awake This Morning'. I'll tell you this, though. For all this records successes, failures and inbetweens, it's far closer to the future of music than acoustic based guitar pop will ever be. The future is the sound of machines and programming integrated with rock instrumentation, or at least, hedging my bets, 'a future' at least.

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    Cassadaga 8 ( 2007 )
    Clairaudients (Kill or Be Killed) / Four Winds / If the Brakeman Turns My Way / Hot Knives / Make a Plan to Love Me / Soul Singer in a Session Band / Classic Cars / Middleman / Cleanse Song / No One Would Riot for Less / Coat Check Dream Song / I Must Belong Somewhere

    Great song title is 'No One Would Riot For Less'. Whilst i'm talking I may as well describe how my latest reviews have come to be. I'm writing this bit, this little bit right now after writing something on Rufus Wainwright, just one song from his latest album. I'm reviewing ten albums at the same time by sticking them all on random play. Stupid? Perhaps, but it's a fun idea. All ten reviews will appear seperately and then together on the 'news/features' page as a neat rounding up of the latest releases inbetween me writing dozens of hip-hop reviews. As for 'No One Would Riot Less', song ten on this new Bright Eyes release, we have acoustic guitar, layered vocals in places including soaring, soft female backing. It reminds me, in a good way, of Irish songstress Enya, only with much added atmosphere and drama and beating drums and people waving lighters in the dark as a lone voice rises above the misery. When the band fully come in, some two thirds of the way through this neat minor epic, a heart bursts open with happiness. Was it my heart or was it yours or both? Buy the album and find out. It's difficult reviewing ten albums simultaneously. It really is quite a challenge. Especially as with a band like Bright Eyes whom i've never heard before. On what i've heard so far of this album, they seem to be a band likely to have inspired moments but not always a band quite in control of their own creativity. I like their vocal moments, though. Take 'Lime Tree', a voice braves the seas alone as a silent church organ spells out a prayer. It's not there.

    Violin! A cheery folk type musical backing! 'Four Winds' is a good song with a disinctive and pleasing musical way with itself.'Classic Cars' pleasantly reminds me of Prefab Sprout. That will mean nothing to my American readers, so i'll just say 'classic, classy pop' and be done with it. 'I Must Belong Somewhere' is a six minute song that starts out all pleasingly pop plus pedal steel country and develops into a song worthy of fine songwriters everywhere. Very listenable, which is always a good thing, clearly. This guy was releasing music when he was just 14, in an outfit called Commander Venus. Many years later, we've now reached album seven for his 'Bright Eyes' project. Still messing around with sound, the opening 'Clairaudients' is much like the mans career, a song of lovely moments that ultimately remains unsatisfying. I do like the orchestral build up towards the end, but the melodic strands aren't enough to keep the song from drowning under its composers own weighty ambitions.'Four Winds' becomes an instant favourite in our house. A folk fiddle see saws over a pop/rock happy sounding backing. The music is fine and the vocals are literate and fun. I can listen to the song over and over, always a good sign. The other main highlight is 'Cleanse' and I've just decided. 8/10 and I need to hear more Bright Eyes. Watch this space.

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    Readers Comments

    Aleks adslpgk4@tpg.com.au
    Fantastic to see you finally reviewing Bright eyes! I always get over zealous when you do a band i adore. You should really check out "I am wide awake its morning," it's his masterpiece and is comprehensively better than "Cassadaga." "Cassadaga" seems to be more of a "country" driven album than the former, but it still contains the relevant political themes and lyrics seen in "I am wide awake." Overall i would give it a 8.5

    James CLarke jclarke0206@yahoo.co.uk
    IF you want to hear more Bright Eyes may I strongly recommend you get "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning", which features 3 of my favourite songs: Lua, First Day Of My Life and Land Locked Blues. Lyrically fantastic.

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    this page last updated 09/06/07

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