Amp Camp has posted up a track from the upcoming Bright Eyes EP Four Winds, "Smoke Without Fire", after Pitchfork put up "Tourist Trap" the other week. I gave "Tourist Trap" a couple listens and found it perfunctory, dull, lacking the fire of old. Then I read Fluxblog's take on the song, which amounted to a deluxe backhand compliment on how Oberst is finally listenable now that he's "mature" (he even cops "Horse With No Name", you see, and you could do worse - bravo!). What I find dull, Fluxblog sees as a long overdue evolution beyond his entire oeuvre til then, in which Oberst's voice invariably amounts to "a deeply unappealing whine which makes him come off like an entitled, petulant teenage boy telling his dad to get out of his room when he's angry, or like a kid about to eat some worms when he's sad."
Say what you will about "A Perfect Sonnet" or "The Calendar Hung Itself" being myopic, immature whinging of the highest order (sure, maybe), but they had hooks, drive, feeling. Can Conor Oberst make the transition to an "adult" rocker, or is it a futile?
The latest piece of inconclusive evidence is "Smoke Without Fire", a traditional Oberst narrative about someone who cries wolf, and baby, it's not working for you. Maybe he's singing in the second person about himself. It's an OK tune, produced to sound like it's being performed around a smoky campfire, but when M. Ward comes in and sings a few verses, the song's transformed. For better or worse probably depends on your feelings for the two vocalists. But it sure seems like Ward steals the show.
MP3: Bright Eyes (w/ M. Ward) - Smoke Without Fire