I didn't last long in Brighton, MA. Even those who do somehow manage to persevere in that environment, I'm not sure they're any better off for it. I was on the border of it and Allston. Allston... And I had to deal with a landlord that would tack up an eviction notice on the door if you were more than a couple days late with the rent. He had a picture on his desk, in a office in the basement of an unfinished house, of him smiling with his arm around what certainly appeared to be an ayatollah of some sort. Everyone I talked to who were landlord-ed under Alpha Management had no illusions that our money wasn't being quickly funneled out of the country.
There aren't many bands that meant as much to me in my twenties as The Silver Jews and David Berman. The line from "Buckingham Rabbit": "When you're 15 you wanna look poor.../I don't wanna look poor anymore" sums up a lot of the feelings I had walking around the dilapidated dorm town. The albums American Water and The Natural Bridge were gospel for me at the time and fortunately the Silver Jews catalog is strong enough that it grows up with you. Like the best art it takes on new meanings as you gain experiences.
Bright Flight is the cleanest sounding Silver Jews record and in hindsight it might have something to do with the state of Berman's affairs at the time. You can read the interviews about his legendary benders but what ended up on the album is very tidy and holds up to Tennessee professionalism. Some might find it a little dishonest or betraying the Silver Jews cassette tape mythology but I dig it. It's a transition album of sorts - the first with his wife Cassie and without Malkmus.
Sometimes with Berman's songs I think he's speaking in the past tense - even if he starts out a song with "I'm drunk on a couch in Nashville". Maybe it's in his voice. But it's in something in the past and it's pain mixed with humor and even a certain longing.
Wanting to be like water hits on just about every existential longing you can come up against. Or maybe you're more like lightning or rain, or you're drinking and lying and loving and dancing and stuck, broke and trying to run away. I guess this is music that never really leaves you. With this selection, I'll admit Bright Flight is filled with tunes that have not left me in the time since I parted with this CD.
You know, that old idea, that one about dying. I really like Cassie's voice alongside David's on this tune and the others that would go on to fill the more ragged Tanglewood Numbers and what appears to be the band's final album, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea. It feels like a natural progression that Berman would end up singing duets with his wife on the second part of his band's life.
Ugh... I certainly haven't given up on this band or D.C. Berman putting out more music in some form or another. He left a pretty powerful statement when he wrote of the end of the Silver Jews. Maybe we'll still see a movie or a book or something in the near future - something bigger coming from the mentholmountains? I hope so.
Always trying to leave on a up-note. The CD single for Tennessee has a beauty on it called "I'm Gonna Love the Hell Out of You". I think it sits comfortably among the great SIlver Jew take on love songs. Like "Honk if You're Lonely" or "Sleeping is the Only Love".
David Berman, we love you and we're waiting.