Monday, April 27th, 2020

Bright Eyes – Persona Non Grata

A little harsh a title for a [4.50], don’t you think?


Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Overwrought, with a surfeit with pavaler references (“kilt like a Celt,” “Bollywood song,” “Tiananmen Square”), “Persona Non Grata” is an unprepossessing first offering from a band starting to release music again after a nine-year hiatus.  

Tobi Tella: Almost collapses under the weight of its own self-importance, with references to Tiananmen Square popping out of nowhere, but Oberst’s melancholy vocal performance ties it all together and the jumble of lyrics does at least hint to a narrative. The betrayal of structure is what ultimately works — the repeated last lines wring out more emotion than anything prior.

Katherine St Asaph: I am predisposed to dislike Bright Eyes for reasons I know better than to elaborate on (it turns out the Internet is A-OK with shouting writers into hell with, essentially, “let people enjoy things” if the things are not by Marvel but beloved critical icons). But this is fine, I suppose, Christine Fellows without the charm and a Tiananmen Square verse that I hope we can agree is ill-conceptualized at best.

Alfred Soto: Disabused of the supposition that Conor Oberst was a man who avoided aftershave and cologne as if they were spilled drinks, I accepted “Persona Non Grata” as another of his wobbly-voiced visions of Johanna, more art-damaged than usual (bagpipes?).

Katie Gill: Bagpipes? Okay, bagpipes. Bagpipes. The song feels aggressively plodding, trucking along in an almost monotonous manner, and then bagpipes. The mixing is odd, and I almost ended up turning this off, but bagpipes! Remarkably under-used bagpipes that kind of feel more like a gimmick than a well-crafted part of the song, but bagpipes all the same.

Ryo Miyauchi: I expected my annoyance with a Conor Oberst song would be from obnoxious pride shown for his collection of bookish, passive-aggressive lyrics, or maybe how his rage flows out of his overly enunciated voice. But the rhymes here are actually rudimentary, and the melody he builds around it even more so. It’s not unrelieved tension as much as it is just lack for trying.

Reader average: [3] (2 votes)

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