Good Times with Bright Eyes – Cassadaga. Not.

Conor Oberst and his band, Bright Eyes, released a new CD today.  It’s named Cassadaga, and if you are familiar with thier previous works such as Digital Ashes in a Digital Urn or I’m Wide Awake and It’s Morning, then you’ll know that it’s unrealistic to expect this to be upbeat or possitive.  And you would be correct. 
In fact, if there is a polar opposite of the bright, happy place we all seek, Conor Oberst has taken up permanent residence there.  This album is dark.  It’s depressing.  It’s gloomy.  It’s morose.  And when it’s not beating you over the head with some heavy-handed message about social disenchantment or what-not, it’s really quite an impressive work.  The lyrics are rich with metaphor and concept, and really quite imaginative.  Imaginative but depressing and so, so serious.  Evidently, Bright Eyes is taking this very, very serious… to such a degree that I simply can’t. 
Of the 13 tracks on the CD, the highlights are:

Four Winds – Disenchanted with religion and its trappings, Oberst sings in his reedy voice,  "There’s people always dying trying to keep them alive / There’s bodies decomposing in containers tonight."  Depress-er-iffic!

In Hot Knives, a song about the common ground between a betrayed wife and the mistress, the lyrics still can’t depart from religeous commentary.  "When I do wrong I am with God, she thought / When I feel lost I am not at all."  Sad-o-rama!
Soul Singer in a Session Band strays into the futility of existence.  "Wasted wheat paste campaign post no bills on the wall /
You mean nothing to no one but that’s nobody’s fault" the song shines like a black hole.  Morose-tastic!
As I listen to this CD, the singularly remarkable thing to me is that the song writer, Oberst, who has all these black musings rattling around in his head, has not commited suicide.  Yet.  For someone to see such hopeless futility in so much, one has to wonder if therapy and anti-depressants would help, or if this is more serious and would require anti-psychotics or shock treatment.
I should also comment on the clever "spectral decoder" that is included with the CD.  It’s a platic lense that, when moved over the CD cover, exposes various images such as a coffin with glyphs on it, or phrases like, "These myths are sacred and profane".  The gimick reminds me of something you might get with a children’s breakfast cereal to find the hidden leprechaun somewhere on the box, only much… much… darker. Magically depressing!
As Oberst sings in No One Would Riot for Less, "From the madness of the governments to the vengeance of the sea /
Everything is eclipsed by the shape of destiny."  Ok… now take your medication.  I’d love to see what songs would be written were Oberst to get into a good mood.  Yes, the reality is there is a lot to be sad about in the world.  There’s also a lot to be happy about if you can only trouble yourself to look for it.



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