In "Landlocked Blues," a blistering look at greed and hypocrisy, a television in the background reports on the war while a couple make love on the living room floor.
The war surfaces again in "Road to Joy," the album's closing number, in which Oberst talks about moral choices and personal sacrifice with a provocativeness and striking literary flair:
I read the body count out of the paper.
And now it's written all over my face.
No one ever plans to sleep out in the gutter
Sometimes that's just the most comfortable place.
It's uncomfortable and maybe even unfair to make so many comparisons to rock's most celebrated songwriter. At the same time, Dylan's music set a standard of excellence that remains a challenge to every songwriter who picks up a guitar. No one in years has come as close to answering that challenge as this other angelic-looking young man from the Midwest.
On the Web
To hear samples from the new Bright Eyes album, "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning," visit calendarlive.com
/brighteyes, and to see scenes from the Radiohead DVD, "The Most Gigantic Lying Mouth of All Time," visit calendarlive.com/radiohead.
Robert Hilburn, pop music critic of The Times, can be reached at Robert.Hilburn@latimes.com.