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CD of The Week

Week of 8/31/20

    Bright Eyes - Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was (Dead Oceans)

    Nine years feels like a long stretch, especially in the age of Covid-19. That is the length of time that has passed since the last proper Bright Eyes release, The People's Key. In the days between, band leader Conor Oberst has been his usual prolific self. There has been a Desaparecidos reunion, a Better Oblivion Community Center album with Phoebe Bridgers, and a handful of solo LPs/tours. Along the way, a roller coaster of personal anguish led to a move back to his native Omaha. Keyboardist Nate Walcott has done studio work for many household names and was a touring member of Red Hot Chili Peppers. Guitarist/producer Mike Mogis recorded too many great records to list. So why did the three core members of the band decide to reunite? From the feedback given in many interviews, it just seemed like it was time.

    The new LP, Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was, starts with a psychedelic theatrical intro in "Pageturners Rag" and never looks back on its route to the rock-n-roll moon. These are songs ready for the big stages that the supporting world tour had promised. The overall theme of loss and sadness is addressed right away in "Dance and Sing" with mature acceptance. "I'll grieve What I have lost/Forgive the firing squad/How imperfect life can be/Now all I can do Is just dance on through" sets the tone for the album as strings fill the air with the sound of growth only time can lend. The album has plenty of the acoustic guitars and layered vocals you'd expect from a Bright Eyes record but noteworthy is the bass on 7 of the 14 tracks. The punch of Flea's basslines (yes that Flea, see above on Walcott's mini-CV) is no more center stage than in lead single "Mariana Trench", which is Bright Eyes signature stuff, with equal parts joy and dread. The arrangements are full, vibrant, and borderline fun.

    The gem of this excellent record is 'Tilt-A-Whirl," a tour de force that in 2:20 sums up so much of what has a hold of so many of us. We all are full of so much emotion with the next obstacle waiting for us as soon as we leap the previous hurdle. Lyrically the subject of the song ponders the pain of the past and only realizes that it has passed when the next flashpoint strikes. Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was hopefully is another step toward a better understanding of it all, both at a familiar pace and lightning speed.

    Review by Jersey Dan

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