Silver Jews

TrackAlbum
Trains Across The SeaStarlite Walker
New OrleansStarlite Walker
Rebel JewStarlite Walker
How To Rent A RoomThe Natural Bridge
Albemarle StationThe Natural Bridge
Random RulesAmerican Water
Smith & Jones ForeverAmerican Water
TennesseeBright Flight
Sometimes A Pony Gets DepressedTanglewood Numbers
San Francisco B.C.Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea

spotify-logo-primary-horizontal-dark-background-rgb-sm

 

Silver Jews photo

Silver Jews (l to r): Stephen Malkmus, David Berman, Bob Nastanovich

 

Contributor: Paul Jenkins

How to best describe the Silver Jews? Formed in the late eighties and finally disbanded in 2009, the band initially emulated the lo-fi noise pop of Pavement, (several of whose members, Bob Nastanovich, Steve West and especially Stephen Malkmus, feature on Silver Jews albums), before moving over the course of six albums towards the indie-tinged country rock that they became best known for. Led by poet, cartoonist and estranged-son-of-a-right-wing-lobbyist David Berman, their songs are playful, funny, melancholic and wryly observed slices of pop.

My introduction to them was the song How To Rent A Room on an alt-country compilation free with a copy of Uncut magazine sometime in the late 90s. It’s a song I’ve stuck on many a compilation tape down the years, as are all the below selections.

Listening to their songs is to take a booze-soaked, broken-hearted drive through the Deep South, where suburban kids with biblical names get their rights read beneath the chandelier. I can’t describe these selections better than the lyrical introductions I’ve provided below.

 

In 27 years I’ve drunk 50,000 beers.” (Trains Across The Sea)

 

There is a house in New Orleans. Not the one you’ve heard about, I’m talking about another house.” (New Orleans)

 

Sometimes I dream of Texas. Yeah it’s the biggest part of me.” (Rebel Jew)

 

Should have checked the stable door for the name of the sire and dam. You were always at the dog track with your brother and all of his friends.” (How To Rent A Room)

 

There must be a Spanish word for this feeling, the rush I get when I am stealing…” (Albemarle Station)

 

In 1984 I was hospitalised for approaching perfection.” (Random Rules)

 

When the sun sets on the ghetto all the broken stuff gets cold.” (Smith & Jones Forever)

 

Her doorbell plays a bar of Stephen Foster. Her sister never left and look what it cost her.” (Tennessee)

 

Happiness won’t leave me alone says a bird in his nest. Get a load of this fucking view, it’s the best in the west.” (Sometimes A Pony Gets Depressed)

 

Romance is the douche of the bourgeoisie.” (San Francisco B.C.)

 

 

David Berman photo

David Berman

 

“David Berman is one of the most lauded characters in the canon of indie-rock songwriters. He is also one of the hardest to understand … He has the ability to write lyrics rife with symbolism and that resonate with a universal sense of truth, but are grotesque in their painful honesty.” Chad Radford, Creative Loafing

Berman has falsely quoted the band’s name originating from the transcription of a billboard that he saw reading “Silver Jewelry”, although he has stated in an interview that the name was actually intended to be a pseudonym for a conceptual art piece and later evolved into the actual band. Others claim, however, that the name pays homage to Silver Apples, The Silver Beatles, and slang for blonde-haired Jewish people. Wikipedia

“You know, I don’t think about [my band’s name] much now. For a long time I really regretted it, I felt saddled with it and it’s really weird because in every other aspect of my life I choose my words carefully and I just don’t know how I wound up with it. I mean, there’s a million band names I could think of that would be better but I wound up with it and I finally decided that okay, what I’m gonna do, maybe the only way I can look at this in a positive light, is to normalise the word and it is a word, it’s a proper noun for a group of people and it’s a group of people that I’m a member of and it’s a problematic word because it’s a proper noun that if said with a certain, depending on how you pronounce the word, it can turn into a slur.” David Berman interview with Stav Sherez for One Week One Band

 

Silver Jews Bulletin Board (archived)

The Corduroy Suit – D.C. Berman and Silver Jews website (archived)

Silver Jews/David Berman lyrics

David Berman interview (Pitchfork 2005)

David Berman post-Silver Jews interview (Monster Fresh 2009)

David Berman interview (Stereogum 2015)

“Silver Jew” – a 2007 documentary film on David Berman and the Silver Jews

“Actual Air” David Berman’s first poetry collection (Open City Books, 1999)

Silver Jews biography (iTunes)

Paul Jenkins is a pop music obsessive living in fear of being found out as the owner of two Tight Fit singles. His opinions on life in general can be gleaned from his Twitter account @fourfoot. He lives in South Wales with his wife, daughter and a collection of Fall gig anecdotes. His posts on this site include Arab Strap, Tindersticks, Grandaddy, Fonda 500.

TopperPost #737

4 Comments

  1. Dave Stephens
    Aug 31, 2018

    Thank you very much Paul. Like you I recall free alt-country compilation CD’s appearing with Uncut whose editor or staff seemed pretty keen to enlighten a Brit audience on the wonders of this “new” genre. While I followed up several other artists, somehow I never got round to doing so with the Silver Jews. My mistake but it’s never too late. Good on you Paul for such a great intro.

    • Paul Jenkins
      Sep 5, 2018

      Ah thanks for the kind words Dave, I think they’re such a wonderful band, glad you’re enjoying them too.

  2. Martin Cox
    Sep 2, 2018

    Where is Send in the Clouds ….. ??? Maybe a bit too much SM to be considered a true SJ tune?

    • Paul Jenkins
      Sep 5, 2018

      I ummed and aahed over that one. Yeah just felt too Malkmus to really be a pure Silver Jews moment.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

↓