Monday, 2 April 2007

Bright Eyes 'Cassadaga' vs Wilco 'Sky Blue Sky'

Music, as everybody knows, is a big competition. So who’s made the best hotly-anticipated easy-listening indie album with scrutiny-inviting lyrics from a prolific, troubled frontman of Spring 2007? Is it Bright Eyes, with Cassadaga, in which Conor Oberst gets more political than ever, over rollicking roots-rock from his current backing players? Or is it Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky, in which Jeff Tweedy finds redemption and comes to terms with his personal demons through 70s AM-radio rock and skronkly guitar solos? At GMS, we believe that music is not only a competition, but that it is reducible to scientific evaluation. So, ten essential categories, marks out of ten for each.

1. Opening lines
A crucial chance to set the tone:
Bright Eyes gets his Fanon on: “Corporate or colonial, the movement is unstoppable. Like the body of a centrefold it spreads.” Big, yes. Clever? Clunky. 4
Wilco: “Maybe the sun will shine today. The clouds will blow away.” Aaaaah – Wilco! A clear winner. 8

2. Alliteration
The secret of good poetry is alliteration, or assonance, or consonance, or whatever.
Bright Eyes: ‘The Soul Singer in the Session Band’. Dude is a poet! 9
Wilco: ‘On and On and On’. Points deducted for repetition. 5

3. Subliminal shots at Jay
Too many bands are covering their own weaknesses by calling out Hov.
Bright Eyes: “
Hey, where have all the dancers gone? Now the music doesn't play. Tried to listen to the river but you couldn't shut your mouth. Better take a little time to level out.” Conor, please leave it alone. Don’t throw rocks at the throne. 1
Jeff Tweedy is on some laid-back ‘Beach Chair’ middle-aged ‘ish here. No shots at Jigga. 10

4. For the ladeez
Ladies: my Mercedes.
Conor used to hold it down for the honeys with a couple of r’n’b bangas on every album, and those big round eyes of his. But now he’s more interested in fiscal policy. Ick! 0
Jeff Tweedy’s a nice chap. No more troubling references to thumping girls like on Summerteeth. He even calls his sweetheart’s mum for advice about the washing. Aww. 10

5. For bumping in the whip
Bright Eyes’ ‘Four Winds’ is clearly a street anthem, with its ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’-style violin hook. But the rest is a bit overwrought for getting your drank on in a hooptie. 4
Wilco, on the other hand, are on cruise control, sunroof down, wind breezing, guitars ringing. Drive slow. 9

6. Overall commitment to realness
Both score pretty highly here.
Oberst is looking up from his adolescent navel and taking on this imperfect world, while Tweedy bears his soul about the troubles and small victories of life and love in middle age. Bright Eyes aim big and don’t quite make it. 7
Wilco are more humble, but also more rewarding. Plus, I hear that Tweedy still visits the ‘hood when the cameras aren’t rolling. 8

7. Number of instruments used
No indie band is worth my respect unless they cripple themselves financially by paying to take a farfisa player on tour.
Bright Eyes run the show here – more instruments than songs! 10
Wilco are hardly trying – the songs are all stripped back and simple, as are the lyrics. Just a few points for a couple of blazing guitar solos from Nels Cline. Jeff could even play these songs solo. 3

8. Solutions offered to the war in Iraq
In 2007, western leaders are reading Pitchfork and logging on to to work out what to do next.
Bright Eyes offer a lot of political angst. But how much ice would this wordy bluster cut with a military man? Maybe you’re putting them off? 3
Wilco are done with being angry. The (blue) sky is (sky) blue and they’re opening themselves up to love. It’s nice. Can’t we all just get along? 6

9. Swearing
I never swear, but I love people who do.
Conor said a swear and reckons he’s done it with a lady. Bonus. 10
Jeff did not say a swear. 0

10. Degree of Springsteen influence
Bright Eyes sound very Seeger Sessions with their political country-folk revue steez. 8
Wilco go the Steely Dan / Television route instead, but pull it back with the line “
I remember my mother’s sister’s husband’s brother working in the goldmine full-time,” and a reference to blue jeans, plus general ‘Tunnel of Love’-era redemption themes. 4

Overall scores

Bright Eyes Cassadaga 55

Wilco Sky Blue Sky 63

Wilco are your winners! Take Bright Eyes away and dispose of them at once.

More fun:

Most of Cassadaga on the hype machine
Buy Bright Eyes

Most of Sky Blue Sky on the hype machine
Buy Wilco


Anonymous said...

I'll take Cassadag any day over SBS, which is so lame I cannot even begin to comprehend how it is a wilco record. I won't even buy it now-- thank God for downloads, saved me some cash. And I am a HUGE wilco fan (but this record is just terrible).

Ass Hat said...

venom in the comments! good to see forthright opinions on GMS. i initially had doubts about the wilco, as they seemed to be playing well within their comfort zone. but i can see myself still listening to it in a couple of years - unlike cassadaga.

didyousaycox? said...

Mr. Oberst always comes off as a bratty teenager. It was ok when he legitametly qualified as one. Growing up doesn't mean abandoning your ideals, rather having enough sense that for one, most people don't care what you think, and 2) nobody is going to care what you think ten years from now. Way to date yourself.

Jake said...

Prolonged adolescence is a quality found in most decent rock and roll singers. Grownups make boring-ass music.

Wayne said...

for Bright Eyes lovers: Cassadaga Here