The first thing that strikes you about Conor Oberst’s first single from his self-titled solo album is the uncanny likeness of it’s main piano melody to the theme tune from Will and Grace. Unfortunately, the similarities don’t end there.
“Hospital” is jangly, disposable fare and any smidgen of enjoyment gained by the listener is undoubtedly tinged with guilt. A guilty pleasure, though the pleasure is minimal. If this was an artist’s first release, perhaps I could enjoy it for what it is – a catchy, if somewhat trite pop song. It’s when you compare it with Mr Oberst’s previous output however that it’s failings become apparent.
Quite how a man who wrote “Lua”, “Padriac my Prince” and “When the President talks to God” could churn out something as insipid as this little ditty is beyond me. Bright Eyes best songs were the ones in which Oberst laid his soul bare, pricking at the listener with his poetic lyrics wrapped in layers of guitar and beautiful melody; this song does none of these things. Lyrically, it seems Mr Oberst was having an off day – “Hospital” includes the lines “ They won’t let you smoke and you can’t get drunk / all there are to watch are these soap operas” which frankly makes most 6th form poetry seem worthy of Dostoevsky.
In terms of sound “Hospital” is probably closest to the Cassadaga album, but I’m afraid it lacks any of the darkness or passion that made that album great. Must try harder…
Words: Mark Williamson