There’s a lot, naturally, about ‘Down In the Weeds…’ that feels as if Bright Eyes - who last released an album almost a decade back with with 2011’s ‘The People’s Key’ - never went away. Conor Oberst’s Conor Oberst’s distinctive, crackled vocal; the glorious familiarity of many of its chord changes; the fact that, between Conor’s solo material and the behind-the-scenes work of Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott, in a sense they never really did. But to assume the trio’s tenth studio record is a second pressing of the pause button is a little too simple. Musically, there are licks and flourishes that the self-aware ‘00s Bright Eyes may have baulked at: there’s the ‘80s percussion and synth of ‘Mariana Trench’, the Desert Sessions-like intro of ‘Pan and Broom’, the fact that ‘Forced Convalescence’ could fit right in on Arctic Monkeys’ latest, and an eyebrow-raisingly OTT electric guitar solo on ‘Calais To Dover’. And lyrically, while still showing off Conor’s enviable way with words (“Parisian revelry / Unapologetic apathy” just one), it’s as dark as one might expect from a group who’ve gone through some Real Life Shit. “The cowboy drinks himself to death / Fresh out of rehab / While they’re loading all the rifles on the range” goes ‘Mariana Trench’. “Limbs they hang like chandeliers / From alcohol and age” in ‘To Death’s Heart (In Three Parts)’. It’s a smart juxtaposition that creates a thread of curious hopefulness through the record - see the glorious builds of ‘Stairwell Song’, for example. At once bleak, grey and obsessed with morbidity, and lush, blooming and gorgeous, it’s great to have them back.
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