Bright Eyes : Letting Off The Happiness

Lo-fi debut of one Conor Oberst, re-released

As album titles go, 'Letting Off The Happiness', is as blackly ironic as they get. By track two, old Bright Eyes himself, Conor Oberst, has got drunk, buried his brother, considered suicide and ruminated on a dreamless coma.

So far, so alt.country. If, however, Will Oldham is a disease-ridden prairie dog, Oberst is a rabid three-legged raccoon tormented by the midday sun. "There's a boy in the basement with a four-track machine/He's been strumming and screaming all night", runs insane rockabilly riot, 'The City Has Sex'. And that's pretty much the nub of it.

'Letting...' - originally released by Saddle Creek in '98 - is gloriously all over the place. There's charming, a bit of My Bloody Valentine, and heaps of references to prime-time Dinosaur Jr's clunky, distorted guitars. All done in a how-lo-fi-can-you-go way.

Given Oberst's Matt Bellamy-without-the-range delivery, it can get a bit much, but 'Letting...' doesn't feel hopelessly bleak. There's a buzz about the tunes, and a wit, weary purity and self-awareness to Oberst's words that saves this from a laughably dark insularity. Bright Eyes, it turns out, burn like wild fire.

Tony Naylor
8 / 10

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