Okkervil River
Black Sheep Boy

Reviewed by: Justin Cober-Lake
Reviewed on: 2005-04-04

Posted 04/04/2005 - 12:19:16 PM by callheraction:
 i saw them live with the decemberists in austin, as that's where they're from, just this saturday and they just seemed so typical. they tricked us with an acoustic song about being 'surrounded by 20 men' or something and from there the music kind of went down hill. in my humble opinion, okkervil river is music for people who don't really want to be into something but want a watered down taste of what it's like. they're like emo boys who heard that country was the new thing because dudes who cry aren't scoring that much anymore. thanks but no thanks, i've already heard bright eyes and whiskeytown.
Posted 04/04/2005 - 05:34:03 PM by idunnowhy:
 an absolutely beautiful album that blows anyway anything Will Sheff has come up with before. Perhaps SOME peoplke have trouble appreciating subtle music like this because it's not as gimmicky or sugar-coated as the Decemberists. I can't imagine that these songs translate well into a live setting, but that's what albums are for. Sitting here eating a braeburn apple on a sunny day, "for real" sounds magnificent. thank you Mr. Sheff.
Posted 04/04/2005 - 06:21:26 PM by JustinC-L:
 You bring up an interesting point, callheraction: I think it'll be interesting to see how this album translates to the stage -- part of what makes it so brilliant in my mind is the cohesiveness of the whole work and the joy provided by re-visiting lyrical and musical moments. I'm not sure that the experience will happen live, but the songs are so good that I wouldn't be surprised if it does. From what I've heard, Sheff is far beyond Oberst and Whiskeytown in terms of writing and orchestration. But I like the Decemberists, too, and I think it's great that they're on the same bill.
Posted 04/05/2005 - 11:24:24 AM by pmacfunk:
 I saw Okkervil with Decemberists here in SF about 2 weeks ago and they came dangerously close to blowing the Headliner out of the water. They rocked. Comparisons to Whiskeytown and Bright Eyes are musically unfounded and speak to lazy listening. Okkervil is quite dynamic both on record and live. They're neither country nor emo, but something about as unique as "indie-rock" can get.
Posted 04/06/2005 - 12:36:14 AM by callheraction:
 how did they come close to blowing the headliner out of the water 'pmacfunk'? sheff's brittle, bleating voice accompanied by some dude blowing on a saxophone whenever he felt like it is nothing compared to my decemberists. to quote my friend: 'oh god, he's singer-songwritering, straight, left, bar.' i do not think i am a lazy listener, just one who draws conclusions quickly and sticks with them. admittedly, i did, at j c-l's urging check out black sheep boy and i can say that they are much better on record than they are live. maybe they had an off night, i'm not sure. but in front of a sold out home crowd they sure as hell did not impress this boy. p.s. the decemberists have neither a sugar-coating nor a gimmick, per say. their history card is a bit worn from overuse but it has yet to get old. i'll take off my knickers and turn in my musket when it does.
Posted 04/06/2005 - 02:06:56 PM by pmacfunk:
 callheraction, certainly not trying to offend in my "lazy listening" comments. I just don't hear, at all, the Whiskeytown/Bright Eyes comparison or an alt-country comparison at all, at least not on Black Sheep Boy. Possible that you caught Okkervil on an off night and I caught them on a good one, there's always that possibility with live shows. The show I saw had Okkervil elevating the best moments on the record to something else entirely. They were loose and "jammy" (in the best sense possible), taking the rising peaks of the songs and stretching them out into sustained moments of towering melody. BTW, The Decemberists were pretty damn great.
Posted 04/07/2005 - 06:05:58 PM by TrickedOutTrap:
 What really gets my goat is the Okkervil River have the nerve to have an idea for an album and then carry it out to the end. PRETENTIOUS! DUH! Albums shouldn't be about choices stacked up on top of eachother until they tower higher than the tallest tree. Albums should be a series of accidents each one more accidental, and less tethered to conscious thought, than the last. Here, on Black Sheep Boy, you can almost smell the rancid fumes of earnesty, integrity, and careful deliberation and it just make me ill. Good albums just happen! This one was made. By people. Thinking people with musical talent. That's my beef.
Posted 04/08/2005 - 10:43:06 AM by JustinC-L:
 Best post ever. Starting with the pun on goat...
Posted 05/09/2005 - 11:21:44 AM by mdtiger:
 Callheraction - I, too, saw the Decemberists with Okkervil River and felt a little sorry for the Decemberists because their opening had shown them up so obviously. Okkervil's energy and passion just could not be matched by the stand-and-deliver style of the Decemberists. While I did enjoy both acts, the night would have been more climactic with a flip of the bill. Also, your comment that Okkervil is "for people who don't really want to be into something but want a watered down taste of what it's like" is a certain sign of lazy listening, as pmacfunk suggested. Either you, or Magnet, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, New York Times, KXEP and Stylus - all of which disagree wholeheartedly with you - are guilty of lazy listening.
Posted 05/13/2005 - 12:40:44 AM by EffulgentEnnui:
 I find it vastly exasperating when people base a band’s entire worth on one live performance. Its dubious at best, unless you’re Milli Vanilli, to sound the same live as you do on the album when you’re playing night after night. The vocal chords aren’t meant for that kind of strain and if you listen as Sheff’s voice fluctuates from shouting to an almost whispered reverence, you have to suppose his voice hurts like hell in the morning. I loved Down the River of Golden Dreams but The Black Sheep Boy is the more dazzling of the two; it’s more cohesive and controlled in the sense that it is very carefully worded, almost to the point of being obsessively thought out with delicate, recurring idioms. I think it’s reasonable to say Colin Meloy and Jeff Mangum have arrange some truly exceptional lyrics but never with the steady heartache and sorrow Will Sheff has tapped into.