Bright Eyes: I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
Connor Oberst’s singular sound rises above everything else in the messages that Bright Eyes bring to I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. While the supporting cast changes from song to song, Oberst’s direction and poetic approach is present throughout.
There are sad threads running through “At the Bottom of Everything,” an unsettling presentation of dichotomies and allusions to events past and present. While the end result is Oberst’s waking from a dream, we are still left with the understanding that the subconscious has awakened within him, and he knows that there must be something more to what he thinks about during the day. This restless, dreaming state lives on in “We Are Nowhere And It’s Now.” One might be tempted to stay down in the depression that Bright Eyes illustrates here, but the depression seems to be the reality that the song challenges and penetrates. Oberst sings “If you swear that there’s no truth and who cares, who do you say you’re right. Why are you scared to dream of God, when it’s salvation that you want.” How many people have stated with surety that there are no absolutes (truth and God included) or admitted that they needed help but would never admit to a divine authority? Bright Eyes is calling all the skeptics and cynics out, and his waitress seems to bring him hope for the future.
The complications are evident in “Old Soul Song,” as Oberst longs for photographic evidence that would be truthful like a Bible should be, but lacks the convicting power that is expected there. Other things (drug addiction, sex) get in the way of his relationship in “Lua,” but he is a realist enough to know that escapes are addictive too. “Train Under Water” continues with a set of tricky rules for relationships, dodging infidelity and commitment at the same time. Having already incorporated sleeping/waking, Bright Eyes now draws on the images of water/raindrops and new birth. Oberst certainly sees his relationships looking back and in the “First Day of My Life,” he documents the discovery of a new kind of love, that opened his eyes.
Bright Eyes seeks true relationships and clarity of thought and searches dreams again in “Another Travelin’ Song” to find them. Depression is evident but the way in which it is presented up front implies that Oberst is battling (even when he says that he’ll “fight like hell to hide that I’ve given up.”) His inability to successfully overcome this mindset gets brought forward again in “Landlocked Blues.” Alcohol is a possible escape but Oberst still struggles with the interaction of need and commitment in relationships. He quotes “if you love something give it away” but his interpretation requires completely leaving it behind.
“Poison Oak” documents a childhood hurt [My two cents: his brother’s sexuality forced a wedge within their family and he left Oberst behind] that is reinforced in “Road to Joy.” Drugs and women keep away the sense of isolation, but only as long as the physical thrill lasts. Oberst’s parents “have their religion, but sleep in separate houses.” Clearly the discrepancy between what they said and what they did tore away his ability to embrace organized religion as a reasonable guide. How do our actions affect how other people see our beliefs, whether social, political or theological? Obviously, Bright Eyes recognizes problematic issues in our lives, notes the potential of faith, but has personal experiences that keep the possibility from becoming a reality.