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Conor Oberst & r & & r & Conor Oberst & r & & r & 3-1/2 STARS & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & t's difficult to understand what makes this artist want to write a solo album. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Bright Eyes basically just a glorified solo project? Whatever the rationale, the maturing Oberst reveals an album of upbeat and bubbly numbers, 12 tracks that right many of the wrongs from last year's Bright Eyes album Cassadaga.





Much critical ink has been spilled about the breeziness of this album. And that's fair. If the solo album is a vacation from his day job, it ought to be a vacation. Oberst is obviously having fun. It rings clearly on "NYC-Gone, Gone" and "Sausalito." Listen close enough and one can hear Oberst cracking a smile.





The obvious complaint is the album cover: the linen pants, the hammock nap, the ing & eacute;nue by the fireplace in the background. The open book on his chest? Most likely, The Book of Ridiculous Clich & eacute;s.





-- CAREY MURPHY





DOWNLOAD: "Moab"





ME FIRST AND THE GIMME GIMMES


Have Another Ball


3 STARS


& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & F & lt;/span & inally, the lost A-sides! That's the conceit behind the latest from this Bay Area supergroup. (It's all in the hilarious liner notes.) This crazy experiment started in 1997 with Have a Ball, a record-full of punk versions of some of the cheesiest songs of the 1970s. Since then, they've mined Broadway, R & amp;B and even country for previous records. This time, the boys desecrate Hall and Oates ("Rich Girl"), Neil Diamond ("Coming to America") and even Diana Ross ("Mahogany").





After 11 years of milking what was a joke in the first place, they're clearly mailing it in -- the whole thing clocks in at less than 30 minutes. Past efforts -- R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" and Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better" -- had a lot more spark to them. Still, if you're looking for that killer song to throw on your next mixed CD, this is cool stuff to have at your disposal.





-- TED S. McGREGOR JR.





DOWNLOAD: "I Write the Songs"