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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Desaparecidos
Read Music/Speak Spanish
Saddle Creek

Rating: NR/10 ?


October 1, 2004
I have a slight confession to make: I read Livejournals. Honestly, I could not tell you exactly why I have such a fascination with reading about how much certain young girls just love Dashboard Confessional, or how the cute boy in their 5th hour won't even look at them. I guess my only excuse is that I am an American, and thus, voyeuristic. I mean, admit it, we all are.

Anyhow, the Livejournals I read usually belong to somebody I know, and through that person I know, there comes an avalanche of people whom I may slightly know, or may not even know at all. During one of these sessions of voyeurism, I came across a journal which had this to say about Conor Oberst, the mastermind behind folk luminaries Bright Eyes, as well as his recent "rock" project, Desaparecidos: "He's a whining pussy. Really... he whines a lot. But... he's good."

After one listen to Read Music/Speak Spanish, there is no mistaking that this comment is pretty damn accurate. It is no secret that Oberst is a highly emotional individual, as documented through his countless confessionals contained on the last three Bright Eyes records. However, where Oberst has focused much of his fever on relationships and the depression that results from heartbreak, Desaparecidos set their sights on the expansion of the band's hometown of Omaha and its apparent sickening expansion, and how it relates to America's obsession with materialism.

As Desaparecidos takes aim at the worlds of high fashion, fast food, mall-rats, and consumerism as a whole, Read Music/Speak Spanish comes off as a musical version of Fight Club. The battle against "stuff' is raged on all out rockers like "Greater Omaha," a song that directly attacks their hometown, attributing a hungry monster quality to the cities elite, claiming "They'll be feeding us/ they'll be feeding on us." On "The Happiest Place on Earth," Oberst questions the American consumer's way of life, explaining that there is too much concentration on industry and expansion and less on human life, with lines like "Each public school is a halfway house."

A good concept album, however, must echo their subject matter musically, and for this project, Oberst has assembled a group unafraid to play with bloody fingers and amps cranked up to 11. Joined by various members of the Good Life and other Omaha rock outfits, the band treads quite close to the same emo-ish territory occupied by Cursive (of whom Oberst is an unabashed fan), traces of Weezer (the guitars of the second track, "Manana" almost a blueprint ripoff of The Blue Album) and Dinosaur Jr. can be found amongst Oberst's familiar throaty wail. Other points of reference could be found in Oberst's earlier projects, Commander Venus and Park Ave., as he and the band spit and scrape through a youthful brand of pop and punk rock, silly breakdowns and all.

It can be assumed that Desaparecidos was consciously designed to be the anti-thesis of Bright Eyes, both musically and lyrically. It could be possible that Oberst saw Bright Eyes filtering into the wishy-washy world of Livejournals and unrequited crushes, and wanted to show off his rock credentials with Desaparecidos. Although he may still be a whiny pussy, Oberst and the band muscle their way 9 songs that address some pretty important issues; things that he has yet to whine about. Because of this, Read Music/Speak Spanish, in all it's emo-clichéness and predictability, still manages to be fresh and fun, rollicking and inspired, and poignant as hell.

Reviewed by Ryan Allen
A former staff writer with fabulous hair, Ryan Allen once fronted Red Shirt Brigade with his brother, Scott. He currently fronts the art/fashion punk band Thunderbirds Are Now!, with is brother, Scott.

See other reviews by Ryan Allen

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