Posts Tagged ‘David Berman’

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David Berman, the former head of Silver Jews, spent his entire 40s rarely leaving the house, barely doing more than reading and sleeping. If it’d been any other artist, I would’ve been suspicious towards those kind of press infos. But not with Berman. For everyone not familiar with his work yet: Silver Jews were the epitome of brilliant, literate, freak americana solitude – a legend for the outsider music scene in America. In 2009, Berman decided to end all that. He quit music alltogether and celebrated his retreat as relentlessly as he created his music before. The reason for him to pick up the guitar again was the death of his mother. And it culminated in one of the essential tracks of this comeback record as Purple MountainsI Loved Being My Mother’s Son. A sparse but still pars-pro-toto-track for Purple Mountains. Backed by indie rock band Woods, Berman crafted some of his best songs ever on this record and imprinted them with a new-found wisdom of the finite.

David Berman died by suicide only a month after Purple Mountains was released and it’s actually pretty devastating, that he had to remember us first how much he and his music will be missed. But then again, it feels appropriate for the way Berman approached his artistic life with. His songs have always been stubborn, sardonic observations of his own complicated depression and the havoc it wreaked regarding his relationships. Purple Mountains develops that. At the heart of it: I Loved Being My Mother’s Son: A crushing statement of helplessness in light of death.

Apart from all the witty, tattoable one-liners (if no one’s fond of fucking me, maybe no one’s fucking fond of me – a line that mirrors the dialectics of 2008s My Pillow is The Threshold: first life takes time than time takes life), Purple Mountains is Berman at his most vulnerable and can’t be unread as a final statement now that he’s dead.

When the dying’s finally done and the suffering subsides/All the suffering gets done by the ones we leave behind“. But, and that’s the last lines David Berman gifted us: „I’ll put my dreams high on a shelf/I’ll have to learn to like myself/Maybe I’m the only one for me/on holidays“. It is that time of the year to reflect on that. Putting on Purple Mountains once in a while might help learning.

If there was any concern that David Berman had lost any of his stunning acuity with language in the 11 years since the last Silver Jews record, the record is set straight right out of the gate: “You see the life I live is sickening/ I spent a decade playing chicken with oblivion/ Day to day, I’m neck-and-neck with giving in/ I’m the same old wreck I’ve ever been.” The musical milieu may be different this time out—lush indie rock that feints frequently toward Americana—but Berman’s knack for weaving evocative narratives shot through with hope, doubt, and self-destruction are as strong as they’ve ever been. The album feels like a gift: when Berman blew up Silver Jews in 2008, he disappeared entirely; the long silence that followed made it seem like things might stay that way. Purple Mountains rewards the patience of his ardent followers with some of his strongest melodic songwriting to date, and also has enough clean hooks and clever barbs to reel in a few new ones.

Centerpiece “Margaritas at the Mall” likens the futility of human existence in the face of a silent God with day-drinking at a shopping center: “See the plod of the flawed individual, looking for a nod from God/ Trodding the sod of the visible, with no new word from God/ We’re just drinking margaritas at the mall/ That’s what this stuff adds up to after all.” The melody in the chorus sounds triumphant; the lyrics are anything but. The album is dusted with traces of pedal steel, barroom piano, and string-like keys, but—as it should be—the centerpiece is always Berman. “If no one’s fond of fucking me/ then maybe no one’s fucking fond of me/ Maybe I’m the only one for me,” he sings wryly in the album’s closing number. Berman may feel alone, but his legion of disciples cheer his return—and hang on every word.


David Berman comes in from the cold after ten long years. His new musical expression is a meltdown unparalleled in modern memory. He warns us that his findings might be candid, but as long as his punishment comes in such bite-sized delights of all-American jukebox fare, we’ll hike the Purple Mountains with pleasure forever.

Released July 12th, 2019

2019 Drag City Inc.

There’s breakup records. There’s apocalypse records. Then there’s the Purple Mountains  record! This new musical expression from David Berman is his most to-the-bone yet, very frankly confessing to a near-total collapse from the word go, before delving into the sorry subtext with twin lasers of personal laceration and the saving grace of a professional songwriter’s natural remove. Our unofficial Gen X poet laureate has written a collection of songs that cries to be understood in the misbegotten country that made everything great about Purple Mountains to begin with.

Clearly, America’s fate is that of its treasured freedom icons: the cowboy, the outlaw, the card sharp and the riverboat gambler all face sheer resignation in the end. There are no perfect crimes. Berman‘s poet-thief of so many precious moments, now stripped and chastened, recalls his latest lowest moments in perfect detail, hovering ghostly above a tumescent production design with tragic majesty, evoking the defeated-king era of late Elvis, southern-fried and sassy STILL on his countrypolitan way down, and somehow still solid-gold (no, silver!) even at rock’s bottom.

The second single conjures [the prelude to] a cathartic night on the town, bathed in magic glow : this is how the light of David Berman’s life leaves him behind, enmeshed in desolation and regret. Purple Mountains approach existential perfection with a somehow joyful lament in “Darkness and Cold” as plaintive harp and backing vox cast long shadows over a dancey rhythm n roots shuffle.  Watch (above) and listen to the fervent new single from none other than your new favorite band, Purple Mountains.

Song from the self-titled Purple Mountains album, out on LP, Cassette, and CD on July 12, 2019 from Drag City Records