Sound — 6
If you're new to Bright Eyes albums and are used to the more mainstream albums such as "Lifted" "I'm Wide Awake" and "Cassadaga" you may be a little shocked on first listen to this album. The first thing that hits you is how weak his voice is, even for Conor and the lo-fi sound quality. Considering this was recorded when Conor Oberst was between 14 and 18 these factors are easily excused, the voice has a raw and gritty textured feel which makes the album a little more personal than bombastic, fuller later albums. The four track recorder sound gets a little irritating at times when the clicks and fuzz are so loud you can barely hear what he's singing but once you're used to that, like I say you can hear the real beauty beneath in his lyrics and melodys.
Lyrics — 9
As with any Bright Eyes album, the lyrics are the strongest point. Deep, dark and full of imagery, teenage Conor explores the emotions and feelings most teenagers take for normality and busts them wide open in the way only he can. Considering his voice and musical talents are not yet matured, you would be forgiven in assuming his lyrics would be the same. The lyrics on this album are easily as good as any later album and show just how magnificent a writer and poet he is and why he is so revered in the indie circuit.
Overall Impression — 8
When laid bare next to the rest of the Bright Eyes catalogue you notice it has a very different and amateur sound in comparison but musically this album has just has many gems and fine points as any other album. The real highlights on this disc for me are "Saturday as usual", "Feb 15th" and "The feel good revolution", they show the roots beneath the speedily growing tree that is Conor Obersts musical creativity. His obsession with spoken word, sound bites and collage is also shown on a few tracks here, but it doesnt't't really feel complete and matured until the much later "Digital Ash In A Digital Urn" is released. What I love about this album is that it is really quite a dark secret among new Bright Eyes fans, only known to older fans or fans who love every aspect of Conor Obersts work and have hunted it down. I don't think it should stay this way of course because it is a wonderful debut album and more fans should take the chance to listen to it, but it is a good feeling when you show someone who has only heard "I'm wide awake it's morning" tracks, like "Emily, sing something sweet" and see their face. The only thing I don't like about this CD is the lack of tracks. I mean for a kid who has himself admitted he has no control on his creative outlet, I feel there are probably a great amount of unheard Bright Eyes songs from this era that could of perhaps made a second disc. Never the less what is here is a great joy to hear. If my copy of this album wore out I would replace it straight away, although I probably wouldn't buy it first hand again, it's definitely worth spending a few quid on. it's also very cheap in some places which gives you even less reason not to hear it. All in all it's a fine album that shows the beginning of something great that you won't wont to miss out on, even if it's just to see how far Bright Eyes has come.