Friday, January 23, 2009

The Silver Jews are soon to no longer be a band. This is fine, of course: Their last three records weren't as good as the three that preceded them, David Berman's book of poetry was of a high enough caliber to convince me that pretty much anything else he does will be interesting. (He's now looking into screenwriting, although I've also heard rumors of a novel.)

But, attached to this news, in his posts on the Drag City messageboard, was the revelation that his secret shame was his father, a fairly evil dude named Richard Berman, who worked for corporations under a variety of fronts to spread misinformation and try to break unions and keep the minimum wage low. Somehow this seems like an important enough thing to note, to tell other people to investigate. Trying to put the work of father and son into a narrative of two forces working against each other seems kind of wrong-headed even as it seems deeply appropriate. It makes more sense than talking about Silver Jews records in a context of Berman's drug abuse and suicidal depression, and it makes that stuff seem less cliched.

To restate: The Silver Jews are about an abiding melancholy, taking comfort in simple pleasures, and acting in resistance to an abstracted them of the rich and powerful. This is done through observation, feeling, and poetry. Sometimes the abstract is forsaken for direct appeals. Meanwhile, Berman And Company lies on behalf of the powerful and their lack of empathy. Old stories, old feelings. The appeal of simple pleasures can seem like not quite enough in the face of all that myth, and so maybe then is where the depression comes in, in not being able to transform all that you've inherited, and to aim for self-destruction instead.

Transform and transcend. So the Silver Jews are no longer a band. They're now a body of work. I wish David Berman luck, and do not want to tar him with a mark like "hero." Let us all keep on living, and try to observe as honestly as we can and feel as deeply as we can bear.


bp baggins said...

i don't know if i can in any way agree with you saying starlite walker and natural bridge are better than bright flight. sorry, dude. they're both better than tanglewood numbers and lookout mountain lookout sea, though

Edmond Guillaume said...

hey brian, it's edmond of olympia, follow my blog. i need more heads for cred.

laura said...

when i read about this on pitchfork media you were my first thought. nice post