Friday, January 2, 2009

Conor Oberst, "Milk Thistle" (#4)

"Milk Thistle"
(Conor Oberst)
Conor Oberst
Conor Oberst

For the most part, Conor Oberst's self-titled third solo album shows an artistic progression, the shedding of the art-rock pretenses of his work under the Bright Eyes moniker. So if you hate Oberst because of his experiments with sound collages and his grandiosity, you might find a warmer embrace in this record.

"Milk Thistle" closes the record with a whisper, just Oberst and an acoustic guitar. He doesn't bleat like a billy goat here, nor does he quote Beethoven. There are no distractions, nothing to keep the words from hitting their targets, which they do quietly but painfully.

The title refers to a plant used to treat liver disease but can also cause suicidal depression. Thus here we have Oberst, post-rehab, getting better but not sure that he wants to. He's in Mexico City, having escaped the murderous roar of New York City but not quite able to escape the roar inside his own head. Will he or won't he go through with it? I've got no idea. But he makes suicide sound like a lullaby, and I must have listened to the song fifteen times (mostly first thing in the morning) before I realized what he was talking about

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