Sunday, May 25, 2008

Silver Jews, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea

The new Silver Jews—

First song, Sound Poem Anthology

Second song, CONVOY

He makes me wonder about my own age, which, God, I hoped I'd never get to that point. Goddamned Nudie suits, do they even fit?

I'm not sure if, as someone who's been accused of anti-Semitism in the past, I can even listen to "Suffering Jew Boy." Oh, wait, Jesus, that's "Suffering Jukebox." Oh, man, I'm sorry. I was just off on some train of thought about how my father used to point out Jews, like Chevy Chase on that Law and Order rerun (Chevy Chase now even kind of looks like a fat version of my father), and thinking about how Jewishness was always pointed out as kind of a neat somewhat obscure factoid, like "That guy? Racecar driver." "Oh, really? Never would have guessed."

Anyway, man, Berman loves reverb and reverb loves Berman—he sounds like what you'd like all poets to sound like, instead of the stuttering, weedy voices pregnant with pause of all the poets that I had to sit through at school assemblies.

I tried to interview Berman once, for his last album. I was counting on him getting back to me and I got too close to the deadline and only got back a one-line answer to all of the stuff I'd emailed him about because he couldn't commit to a regular phone call time. It was all pissy, like he was going through a perfunctory "I'm difficult with interviewers" character sketch. At least half of it was my fault, since I wanted to just get a basic sense of him before I interviewed him, so that I could ask questions about his answers, and I realize now that all of the questions that I sent looked clumsy and oafish.

Back to poets and their voices: I do understand that Berman regards his poetry and his songwriting as separate, while connected. But he's too clever and too verbal for his songs to ever really be evaluated separately, at least for me. That brings me back to a regular problem I have with the Silver Jews and Pavement and a certain faction of indie rock in general, in that I tend to enjoy the music more than I enjoy the words, which I like to think of as just kind of an endless stream of things that sound good. I have a hard time listening to Ted Leo anymore, after my girlfriend's brother-in-law (God, I need a Masai word for that or something) started trying to explain to me what each of the songs meant.

And the problem is that Berman's words are the only thing that distinguish his music anymore—the rest could be Nashville music from any time after Warren Zevon. At least that sort of vague one-man timelessness (though his wife is on there, I doubt she gets annoyed when it's constantly assumed to be Berman's show) makes it easy to just listen to the album without needing it or loving it or keeping it close, and hard to imagine that Berman won't keep on making this album or ones like it in the future.

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