wed 21/08/2019

CD: Better Oblivion Community Center - Better Oblivion Community Center | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Better Oblivion Community Center - Better Oblivion Community Center

CD: Better Oblivion Community Center - Better Oblivion Community Center

Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst’s new band doesn’t disappoint

2019 is off to a good start

In recent weeks, you may have noticed signs for the Better Oblivion Community Center, from billboards to park benches, all displaying a mysterious helpline telephone number. This was not some new community support project, but a surprise collaborative album from premier sad songwriters Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst. Though Oberst was releasing music before Bridgers was born, their partnership is not unexpected: they share a heart-on-sleeve outlook and a mutual respect for each other's music, and have toured and appeared onstage together. Now on this new album, they elevate each other’s strengths to create an intelligent and emotive record.

The music they’ve written together is characteristically downbeat, beautiful, sad, but that’s not to say it’s twee. The tunes are more-ish, with plenty of poignancy and some thrilling heavier moments. Lead single “Dylan Thomas” pairs a driving rhythm with gleefully morbid sentiment: “I’ll die like Dylan Thomas / A seizure on the barroom floor.” They sing for the most part in unison, Bridgers’s flawless tone and Oberst’s trademark tremble fusing into something altogether new and compelling. Each voice in turn seamlessly weaves to the fore of the mix, and together they're a force to be reckoned with (see the final bars of “My City”). Lyrically, it's exceptional; from the confessional “Sleepwalkin’”, to the nostalgic “Chesapeake”, there's an addictive warmth to the storytelling throughout.

With the bizarre melodrama of the release, the almost sci-fi imagery, and the entire concept of a community centre to aid in bettering your experience of the oblivion, the whole thing is delivered with a delicious self-awareness: just watch any video of Bridgers and Oberst discussing BOCC and you'll find two people who are more than capable of poking fun at themselves and each other. No surprise there from Bridgers, someone who's carved out a unique identity in the space between her astute, melancholic songwriting (her 2017 debut Stranger In The Alps is also a must-listen) and impressively sardonic online presence. That dark humour carries through to this record: at times, social media can feel like a hellish cacophony of virtue signalling, and Better Oblivion Community Centre holds up a mirror to internet culture with biting accuracy: "I feel so proud now for all the good I've done." Whatever your experience of 2019, be it indifference, frustration or worse, the BOCC doors are always open.

The internet can at times feel like a hellish cacophony of virtue signalling

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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