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Desaparecidos
Read Music/Speak Spanish
Saddle Creek


It’s the familiar vocals of the distraught Conor Oberst, the heart and soul behind the emotionally raw band Bright Eyes. Only this time he’s fronting the socially conscious Desaparecidos. While Bright Eyes could be deemed the epitome of emo music due to Oberst's habit of displaying his uninhibited anguish for himself, with Desaparecidos, Spanish for ‘the disappeared,’ Oberst shifts to crooning over the all too familiar rotting suburbia. As part of Desaparecidos, Oberst takes on a new form, one, which displays more social anger rather than social awkwardness.

All too often, a song’s lyrical content can get lost under catchy interludes, leaving the song’s elusive meaning, if any, gasping for breath. With Desaparecidos acting as a music savior with their debut album Read Music Speak Spanish, you are equally engulfed by both sound and lyrical significance. Produced well enough to highlight on each aspect, this album provides you with the perfect balance of heart-wrenching sounds to accompany their equally inspiring words.

Your first look at the art on the CD cover gives you a good inclination of the content the record possesses. The art is that of a city planning and zoning report for non-other than Omaha, Nebraska, Oberst's hometown. You'll soon learn that the art was rightfully chosen, considering the subject matter of the album. From the rising disgust in Corporate America to the thinning population of self-sufficient human beings, Read Music Speak Spanish entails all that is wrong and unjust with us, and the country in which we live. For example, take the track "Happiest Place On Earth," in which the opening line brings you to the realization that, while you may have an unspoken patriotism for your country, there are the never ending qualities that could make you question your so-called pride. Public schools, military and even technology, are all prime-time players in demise of America. Oberst uses symbols that represent America in the most superior light, such as amber waves of grain and purple mountains, as being only a backdrop of Disney World, not things that truly represent America. Using metaphors, puns and pure bitterness, Oberst paints a vivid picture to aid in our understanding for his grief for society.

Before you assume that Oberst is one to point the finger without condemning himself, then skip straight to track nine. On "Hole In One," Oberst uses this song as a confessional that he has given way to the pressures of society as well: Now you emptied your heart to fill your bank account. Well I should talk. I'm just the same. You can buy my records down at the corporate chain. I tell myself I shouldn't be ashamed but I am. Be warned: by the end of the album, unintentional feelings of guilt may begin to sink in.

With the track "Man And Wife, The Former (Financial Planning)," the album is set in motion with a woman’s voice discussing that the most important quality of a man is the size of his wallet, displaying the shallowness of relationships in which revolve around the dollar.

Oberst even has the predictable ending to this divorce-destined love affair on the track "Man And Wife, The Latter (Damaged Goods)." The word is LOVE. The word is LOSS. The words are DAMAGED GOODS. That is what I am. A lifetime gets chalked-up to an experience, coincidence, we are chained to the events. That's it.

Oberst doesn’t go without an ode to Omaha, pinpointing the suffocating suburban life and all that is required to have the picture perfect life.

As Read Music Speak Spanish continues to drive home the point that we need to reevaluate the culture in which we live, Desaparecidos also drives home their music in pure rock fashion. With the help of band-mates Matt Baum, drums, Denver Dalley, guitar, Landon Hedges, bass and Ian McElroy, keyboard, the sound laid out for this album is the polar opposite of anything you would hear on a Bright Eyes album such as Fevers And Mirrors. As the Bright Eyes version of Oberst drips with slow desperate cries from keyboards, slow hits from percussion and somber strums of guitars, Desaparecidos allows Oberst to releases all that built up energy. On track five "Mall Of America," the electric guitar is in full effect while notes of the piano trickle in and out, adding the perfect backdrop to Oberst vocals. The entire album goes in and out, speeding up and mildly slowing down, but never loosing steam. If you’re going to be lashing out with your feelings, naturally you need the most vigorous music to accompany it.

By the end of the album, you may have a new outlook on life, or maybe you won’t, but you will defiantly have an understanding of how Oberst views life. Disagree or not, you can’t help but respect the guy for his blatant honesty.

-Lycia Shrum

Track Listing:

  1. Man And Wife, The Former (Financial Planning)
  2. Manana
  3. Greater Omaha
  4. Man And Wife, The Latter (Damaged Goods)
  5. Mall Of America
  6. The Happiest Place On Earth
  7. Survival Of The Fittest/It's A Jungle Out There
  8. $$$$
  9. Hole In One

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