It takes two seconds of this album before it becomes clear to all but the registered deaf that Conor has carried on his trend towards country music, that started with parts of 'I'm Wide Awake It's Morning.' This is not a good thing. The move has seen Oberst becoming drabber and drabber, more predictable, more boring. He's not even 30, yet he sounds middle aged, content to churn out dull Texas bar rock.
'Slowly (Oh So Slowly)' lives up to its title. You'd need a pick up, and bad judgement, to wring any enjoyment from the damp towel of a track. 'Roosevelt Room' tries it hand at Desparecidos rock, and largely succeeds, with Hemingway and Hunter S Thompson references mixing with Hammond organ into something epic. It also contains the apposite lines of “Hope you haven't got too lazy, I know you like your apple pie.”
Oberst is kind enough to let his Mystic Valley Band write some songs on 'Outer South'.This may have led to his downfall. There should be some 'never let the drummer write a song' mantra here. It fits. The best songs here are his work, not his band's. And the others stick out like a clown at a funeral.
The Taylor Hollingsworth-penned 'Air Mattress' is awful, cheesy stuff, with a cheap synth line and predictable bar rock structure sullying any of the good done with Oberst's songs. 'To All The Lights In The Windows', with its lyrics mixing religious references and the old Bright Eyes steadfast theme of heartbreak is one of the rare nuggets of gold in the dirty creek.
Oberst seems lax, as if 'Lifted...' is enough of a legacy, and coasting downhill from here is the way to go. While his songs outperform the lesser efforts of his backers, they hardly match his previous peaks. 'Ten Women' is a speck of a melody in search of some decent lyrics in search of some energy in search of the poised beauty of yore. “Ten women, Between you and me, Ten women, The glory and the tragedy” repeated ad nauseum ain't going to win the Pulitzer, and it ain't going to win any Pitchfork plaudits. The man who wrote lines like “I touch the clasp of your locket, with its picture held, some secret you wouldn't tell but let it choke your neck” is gone. There are no signs of him here on this snoozefest.
'Outer South' is bloated, and needs at least five tracks liposuctioned off. Even with radical surgery like that, it's still a mutilated body. There's no soul, just a rudimentary arrangements of instruments, and words in their most nugatory form. I love you Conor, and it's time for an intervention. Stop this. Now. 1.5/5