Silver Jews – Bright Flight
Drag City, 2001
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2007
This is notoriously known as the record David Berman recorded after trying to off himself. I think most of the critics ended up panning it because it wasn't as great as American Water, which I think is an awful reason to criticize a record. It tends to happen a lot. A band puts out their masterpiece and the follow-up always seems to get some sort of backlash, at least in the last ten years or so. It's like, what if Arcade Fire put out Neon Bible without funeral? People would pry be apeshit over that. Sure, it's not as good as Funeral but it comes damn close. It only happens with the epic albums, though. The game changers. The only bands that are not going to suffer any backlash it seems are Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, and Dirty Projectors, who, since they have essentially been created by the internet, the internet will constantly support whatever they do. You need only look at Grizzly Bear's latest record, which was pretty much hyped to the point where if the record wasn't one of the top 3 records of the year people would explode. So, everyone ended up praising a record that has about two great songs with the rest being pretty boring. ANYWAY, Silver Joos. This is Berman's return to the Natural Bridge aesthetic. Malkmus is gone, probably pimping the final Pavement record, but this record doesn't really need him. It's a quieter, less epic affair. The songs seem a little more personal, despite a lot of leftover surreal imagery leftover from American Water (“Tanning beds explode with rich widows inside,” “I'm like a rabbit freezing on a star,” etc), most of the songs are if not personal, about people and delivered in a personal manner. The story-song “I Remember Me” was the track from this record that immediately grabbed me. It's one of the saddest songs I've ever heard, a tale of a man and woman happily in love until the man is hit by a truck, goes into a coma, his woman re-marries, he comes to and his world is gone so he buys the truck that hit him. Maybe this record got panned because it was too straightforward, which seems like a stupid reason to pan a record, or at least to pan a Silver Jews record. I really like the personal nature of the songs. Lines like “I'm drunk on a couch on Nashville/ In a duplex near the reservoir” hit close to home. That whole first verse of “Horseleg Swastikas,” actually, even the rabbit freezing on a star bit that I cited as surreal. It's like a drunk meditation on “what the fuck am I doing.” Almost half the songs seems autobiographical, or at least start with “I.” “I'm gonna love you for a hundred years,” “I'm drunk on a couch in Nashville,” “I saw the river playing in the valley,” “I wish I lived in the Power and Light.” It's a reflection on one's wants and needs in this world. It's like that line in “Pretty Eyes.” “Everybody's wants can't make it past the windowsill.” I think it's a humble record, and I think it's a beautiful record and maybe Berman's most affecting. There are no clicks or whistles, and there doesn't need to be any. It's just a broken down dude trying to get his footing back, and it's at times utterly sad and at times raoucous and fun (“Let's Not and Say We Did” and “Tennessee” clearly has a sense of humor, as it relies on a pun). Mostly though, there are more love songs here than usual and I think there's something sweet about that. And a David Berman love song is different from someone else's. And I almost forgot to mention how amazing “Slow Education” is, and how it's one of my favorite opening tracks. Ok, that's all. And actually, checking up on this record, I'm noticing that it got a lot of POSITIVE praise and that I must have only imagined that it got negative criticism. Which is good, because there's nothing here that warrants negative criticism!