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Bright Eyes - Down in the Weeds, Where The World Once Was (Album Review)

Thursday, 03 September 2020 Written by Huw Baines

Photo: Danny Cohen

The sweet spot for a Bright Eyes song is somewhere between grandiose, quasi-orchestral Dylan-isms and celebratory miserabilism. It is nothing if not an intense hang.

For that reason, the work turned in by Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott over the past two decades has always been a divisive proposition. There is little common ground between those who dismiss their music as a black hole for teenagers to pour their hurt into, and those who embrace them as empathetic, prophetic indie-rock sages.

‘Down in the Weeds, Where The World Once Was’, the group’s first album since 2011, won’t solve any arguments, and that’s probably because, from its title on down, it doesn’t try to. Here Bright Eyes’ songs are as overblown, lachrymose and committed as they usually are. 

Oberst’s reassuring croak of a voice is surrounded by florid strings, surges of distortion, squalling weirdo interludes and the implausible pop-clack of Flea’s slap bass.

He plays beautifully off guest singers—including Miwi La Lupa and Jesca Hoop—as he has done with everyone from Emmylou Harris to Phoebe Bridgers in the past, adding depth and warmth to lyrics that are often cutting.

‘Down in the Weeds, Where The World Once Was’ charts a path through death and divorce, carrying loss and heartache with it even as Oberst executes deft melodic feints amid the headline-grabbing instrumental excess. “How imperfect life can be,” he sings in the lilting chorus of Dance and Sing. “Now all I can do is just dance on through.”

There are times when it’s all a bit much—detractors almost certainly won’t make it through the ragtime/spoken word mashup of an opener Pageturners Rag—but with so much water under the bridge it’s fair to assume that being a bit much is part of Bright Eyes’ DNA. Fortunately, ‘Down in the Weeds, Where The World Once Was’ is also clever, emotionally engaging and beautifully performed.

Bright Eyes Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue August 31 2021 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Institute
Wed September 01 2021 - DUBLIN Vicar Street
Thu September 02 2021 - GLASGOW Barrowland
Fri September 03 2021 - MANCHESTER O2 Apollo
Sat September 04 2021 - LONDON Eventim Apollo

Click here to compare & buy Bright Eyes Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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