Reviews:: Okkervil River Overboard and Down EP

Okkervil River is another band that seems to just truck along, without fanfare or concern. This latest 5-song package is an Australian only tour EP that features some new material, a Big Star cover (O Dana) and a spirited live take on Westfall.

Front-man Will Sheff is a master lyricist, and after each release I expect his songs to vault the band into the spotlight. Behind the strength and reception to the first track on this album, they might be on the verge of something big. The opener, The President's Dead, is an honest, almost sympathetic tale of what would happen on the day a president is gunned down. Interestingly, most people are viewing this as a protest song, as if Will is seeing into the unavoidable future when Bush is gunned down in the street. Instead, I almost see this as his anti-protest song. Rather than rejoicing in the death of the president, Shef walks through the feelings of a nation under tragedy (through the eyes of one man) with the help of only a sparse acoustic riff. He puts all his fears and questions off a young man's life on hold for at least one day, and eulogizes over the death of quite simply, another man.

After reading Sheff's against the norm view of Neil Young's protest album, Living With War, he had this to say, "Well, from a political standpoint," he said, "kudos to him. But from an artistic standpoint, that’s just so... It’s just so dumb. It made me want to write a song that gives people sympathy for Bush. I just don’t like things that massage your beliefs and say 'What you believed all along is in fact the truth." - via Said the Gramophone - and that is what makes this song so compelling. In today's society, it's so easy to take the popular view and agree with the herd. Writing an anti-Bush song has become an easy way to get on the charts, and let's be honest, no one is going to stand up and deny he's ruining the world. From Moby, to Pink, to Conor Oberst, it's easy to get attention from the masses for writing what they want to hear. Will takes a different approach, and I love it. Maybe I'm wrong about his intentions, but instead of just hearing it and saying, "yeah Bush is absoludicrous", my thoughts actually make me wonder what would happen if he was dead.

Regardless of the intentions, or how you take the song it's another great track by this band. The rest of the EP is less politcal and focuses more on Sheff's narrative abilities. From the country-laden The Room I'm Hiding In, to the folky tinges on In Love With a Monster, Sheff is able to draw you into the characters he sings about.

Sadly (because it is so wrong to say the best part of a release is a cover song), the Big Star cover is the standout of this record. Simply for the stretching and straining of Shef's voice on the chorus, coupled with the ba-ba-ba of the horns and piano, you can't help but keep listening to this song. jagjaguwar is putting out two of the songs on a vinyl single, so I feel bad posting them. But......


Check out hype standard for more Okkervil River tracks.


@ 6:26 PM, Issaquah Perplexus kicked the following game:

Look man I appreciate the fact that you don't jump on the bandwagon and are actually able to recognize art when you see it-- unlike many of these other political idiots in music out there--, but we don't need your "Bush is ruining the world bs." If Bush is ruining the world then he is ruining it because of Islamofascism and you are too afraid to write that because you are afraid "Herohill might be dead" (like Theo Van Gogh) if you wrote something like that (so you too take the easy way out of blaming Bush for a very complicated problem in the world today. Sheff would never ruin his art by taking a complicated problem and white washing it like it's one mans fault. "The recognition of complicity is the beginning of innocence" -- Robert Penn Warren "Brother To Dragons"

 

@ 7:04 PM, ack kicked the following game:

I'm not sure if you read everything I wrote or not. I really can't tell. I was pointing out that unlike so many artists blaming everything on Bush and writing a half assed protest song, Sheff was making a statement on the opposite side of the spectrum.

I think it's great, and makes you think about the reality of Bush being just one man. I never tried to claim that Sheff was trying to simplify the issue, or even address it. I said that I think he is separating the man from the problems in the world today and addressing how a nation would grieve.

So yeah, um, there that is.

 

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