Saturday, June 25, 2005

Little Blue Smurfboy(tm)

Matthew Wilder lays into mantropy in the current arts scene in the Minneapple City Pages:

Boys in the Corner

Son of Big Bruiser, I name you LittleBlue SmurfBoyâ„¢--after the fetish of your patron saint, Donnie Darko, the most sensitive and martyred of your kind. I take this moment to examine the markings of your race, as evinced by your most applauded manifestations: novelist Jonathan Safran Foer, filmmaker Wes Anderson, and musician Conor Oberst.

Of all the celebrated SmurfBoys of the moment, 24-year-old Oberst is for sure the most little and most blue. I can't recall a single live performance that filled me with as much rage as Oberst's unsmiling warm-up for Belle & Sebastian at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, in which an anti-Iraq war variation on his current song "Road to Joy" climaxed with Oberst closing his bright eyes and rendering the mock-ecstatic windup--"Let's fuck it up, boys, let's make some noise"--as a literally shivering paean to his own too-raw nerve endings. "Let's fffffuckitup, boys!" Oberst shuddered, his plosive F a talisman of his too-sensitive-to-live fragility. (Even serenading Leno with "When the President Talks to God" can't redeem that long evening.) On his early 2005 album I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, Oberst the composer devises variations on Robbie Robertson's shambling antebellum melodies that have a crawling-kudzu creepiness, like Matthew Brady photos of carpetbaggers staring shell-shocked into space. But damned if every song isn't shellacked by Oberst's penchant for teen-drama-queen melodrama. No lyric clink of image-shards or exhausted wheeze of Jon Brionesque hurdy-gurdy is permitted to stand its own ground. No, all must be subjugated to the sniffly one's deluge of sensations, impressions, and feelings. (Maybe that's why the title suggests the first, early a.m. words of a demonically overprecocious child.)


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