Friday, January 23, 2009

Silver Jews

According to the Drag City Forum, David Berman is calling time on his band Silver Jews.
Their last show is next Saturday. Appropriately enough, it's underground in Cumberland Caverns, Tennessee.
Berman's post on his own fan forum seems to say that he doesn't feel being in a band is somehow enough to 'count' for him. He also reveals that his father is Richard Berman, aka "Dr Evil" - an industry lobbyist in Washington DC.

"My father is a despicable man. My father is a sort of human molestor. An exploiter. A scoundrel. A world historical motherfucking son of a bitch. (sorry grandma)"

He goes on to say that he 'fought' this fact for the best part of 20 years and 'hid' in academia and art. It all sounds very dramatic but Berman has become something of a specialist in the area over the past few years, with the blurb for his 'comeback' album Tanglewood Numbers reading like a transcription from a self-help group meeting.
I think it was my distaste for the Americanism of bearing one's demons in public as justification for the validity of one's artistic endeavours that put me off that record and perhaps subconciously stopped me from buying last year's Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea.

Despite this, 1998's American Water remains one of my favourite albums. It's funny how records (or books or films) can lay dormant in your life only to rise to the surface when they make most sense, or when you 'need' them the most. If I look back and pinpoint a time when my life was truly the shittiest it could be, it would be sometime around 2004 when I moved house and stupidly ended up in an attic room living next door to a warring family. My then-girlfriend dumped me by phone from several thousand miles away to make matters worse. It's times like these that you need to sit and stare out of the window and have some time for reflection but unfortunately my window just looked upwards at the sky so I opted to do my gazing at work and was promptly fired.
My American Water CD somehow wormed it's way into a different box than the rest of my CDs when I moved so when it came to listening to music as I unpacked it was my only option. It stuck around for the next few months on repeat. Even now when I listen to it, it puts me back in that situation and place so strongly that it's uncanny. It has gone beyond memories or senses and become an abstract but crystal-clear summary of a period of time. Listening to the guitar solos on Buckingham Rabbit today puts me right back to sitting in the garden on blue plastic chairs wondering what the fuck I was going to do with my life.

I hope Berman has a plan for what he's going to do with his.
His ability to manipulate the English language into perfect-sized kernels of information has few equals. I guess maybe he feels this skill could be better used than just making records or writing books for a particular crowd of people that might automatically agree with him. I can see his point.

Sometime after I moved out of the aforementioned house, I went to see Berman and band in London. My now-girlfriend Katy spent an age deciding where would be best to stand to take photos and as we waited for the band to come out, she set up her posh camera to capture the proceedings.

Then Berman got out his music stand.

Silver Jews

(Also, the way he sings the word "game" in the style of Mick Jagger on Send In The Clouds is my favourite Silver Jews moment by far even if it haunts him everytime he hears it).

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