Mary Magpie and I have been writing about Bright Eyes masterpiece, I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, for awhile now. I called it the best album of the last decade, and Mary has written about it twice since then.
As so often happens, the deeper you get into an album, the more concerned you get with the finest of details.
This post is about a detail. Conor's cry of "Goddamn make me cry" and what precisely he means.
On a song recorded around the same time as Morning, "Take It Easy (Love Or Nothing)", Conor Oberst (wait -I don't quite mean Conor -I am not claiming he is what he sings) gets his heart broken by an older woman and he gets his revenge by sleeping with multiple women, and, liked a meat eater who won't watch how animals are slaughtered, he realizes the girls he sleeps with might "feel cheap" but he doesn't care, he feels free.
This vicious misogyny is a form of innocence, he is not fully conscious of the damage he is causing: Conor is like a child with a magnifying glass, burning flies to death. It isn't computing.
On "Train Under Water", in a sense part II, Conor has plans to meet a girl in Brooklyn and blows it off. Late that night, Conor tries to explain his actions, but the deeper he gets, the shallower and crueler his responses feel. He doesn't seem able to dismiss her the way he has dismissed so many other girls. "Don't be fooled" "Don't be lied" "Don't act strange" "Don't be a stranger", Conor warns her, he pushes and pushes her: this is the way life is, he seems to be claiming, you are wrong to expect more. It's not me, it's you. "In the morning you'll wake feeling new…"
And finally, "If I don't come back, if I get sidetracked…"
Conor is talking as fast as he can but he can't take his way out of the mess he has created..
None of it rings true to him, none of it is satisfying. The lies he has been telling himself, his innocence over the pain he has caused, his childishness,crashes around him. "Goddamn make me cry", Conor moans and it is the end of his childhood. he has changed from a boy seeking to revenge, to a man who has to work out what he wants from women. He has been humbled by the confrontation with the girls pain.
Mary was wondering why I, at 55 years old, and Mary, 40 years younger, should feel similarly. The reason is because, losing ones innocence is a universal transition. We are both responding to Conor's loss.