Bright Eyes - Motion Sickness

Motion Sickness is both a special treat for devout fans and an accessible, defining introduction to the Oberst phenomenon. This new live disc, recorded from Bright Eyes' spring tour earlier this year in the wake of I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning and Digital Ash In A Digital Urn, contains a few older tunes, the strongest songs from I'm Wide Awake, the oft controversial "When the President Talks to God", and even a couple of covers.

Oberst wears his politics on his sleeve and boycotts the media giant Clear Channel Communications with zeal. As a result, Bright Eyes ends up playing theaters with plush seating instead of smoky clubs with beer-drenched dance floors. Motion Sickness somehow channels the atmosphere of these venues into the music. The live band attains a grandeur that is hidden under raw emotion and urgency in the studio. Perhaps, however, the band's size and diverse array of instruments causes the grandeur. When I saw Bright Eyes in Salt Lake City the band included a harp, slide guitar, upright bass, and trumpet. The band on Motion Sickness consists of seven members.

The live renditions of I’m Wide Awake material sound much like the studio versions, albeit with a bit more energy as exhibited by the frenzy and chaos of “Road to Joy.” He sheds most of his band for “Landlocked Blues” but throws all of his being into the tune, blowing away the live audience and probably at-home listeners too. It was my favorite track on I’m Wide Awake and it’s grown even stronger on Motion Sickness. His older songs, such as “Scale” from Fevers and Mirrors and “Make War” from Lifted, are reinvented on Motion Sickness. While they lose some of the famous Oberst intensity, they gain an accessibility that will please new listeners wary of that intensity.

The strongest two tracks on this disc, “Mushaboom” and “True Blue”, are two that even the most committed fans have probably never heard. While touring in Canada, as Bright Eyes drummer Jason Boesel explains in the linear notes, “an interviewer recommended a Canadian singer named Feist” to Conor. He promptly purchased her album Let it Die and “it became almost the only CD played on the entire tour.” Bright Eyes recorded a rendition of her song “Mushaboom” while in Japan that will generate smiles, especially for those who have heard the Feist version. It’s a joyous and addicting song that’ll be played over and over again on stereos and iPods everywhere. “True Blue” embodies a similar joyousness, with its blaring trumpet and amusing lyrics over three simple chords. In the first verse, Oberst sings,

“I am a blue blood, I will admit that. I dance in blue shoes and wear a blue hat. Live in a blue house, on a blue street, in a blue town by a blue creek. I write my blue songs with my blue pen. I sing the blue notes to my blue friends. Now I don't know that much about you, but I like you because you’re true blue.”

The song continues in that fashion and one can’t help but marvel at Oberst’s lyrical imagination. Had such a song been attempted by most any other artist, the result would most certainly have been cliché. Oberst, however, manages to pen an endearing and clever song.

If you’ve been curious about Bright Eyes, now is the time to fork out $15. Motion Sickness is perfect for you. If you are already hooked on Oberst and friends, you won’t be able to live without this disc.

This review also appears on BlogCritics.

Click here to visit Team Love Records, where you can purchase Motion Sickness.

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