What's your take on algorithms? Good, bad, a little of both, completely indifferent? Whatever it is, you have to admit that every once in a while the damn things can hip you to something mind-blowing. Well, maybe mind-blowing is a bit of a stretch. But I've been going around considering myself pretty well-versed in the output, musical or otherwise, of both David Berman and Will Oldham and was completely in the dark about the existence of these two videos.
Both of these videos come from the fine folks at Drag City who have blessedly made their videos open to all regions, so that here in Berlin I don't get the cursed fuzz screen that tells me "sorry but Sony and/or Universal own everything and you're out of luck, ya commie."
Palace Music - "Horses"
The first one is attributed to Palace, and Drag City should be considered a solid authority on the band name, though the song "Horses" is off Lost Blues and Other Songs, which is filed under Palace Music. Those familiar with this band will appreciate the continued obfuscation around the band name here. And perhaps at this point we all should just go with Palace and leave the Music, Brothers and Songs in the past.
I love this video for a few reasons. Not only is it a charming and simply funny blast from the past, it reminds me of all those wonderful and awful student films that were such a strong presence in my late teens and early twenties. This is innocence and energy, propelled by the same inspiration that countless other young filmmakers have experienced, which is, "Hey I have a gun and a car and a couple of suits so let's do this thing." Brilliant.
I think Will Oldman's shirt might even be a nod to Breathless, right? After all it was Godard that said, "All you need for a movie is a gun and girl, and for a music video you can even get by without the girl as long as you've got a car." Not many people remember that send part, but it's this video is proof he was right.
Silver Jews - "Random Rules"
So, not long after Lost Blues, the Silver Jews released their landmark album American Water, the first cut of which is this tune.
I'm far more of a Silver Jews obsessive than I am of Palace or Will Oldham -- likely due to the relative brevity of David Berman's output compared to Oldham, who occasionally gives Robert Pollard a run for his money in the productivity department. So I'm even more surprised to see this video pop up in the sidebar. In my mind, Silver Jew music videos became a thing around the same time that Berman and the band started playing live, around 2004 or so.
The video for "Random Rules" is more polished than "Horses" but if the Palace video is like Breathless, then we'll stretch that analogy far beyond any tasteful limit and call the Silver Jews video like later, more experimental Godard, what with its odd use of jump cuts and whatnot. But what we really have a whole lot of ramshackle charm and some simple yet cool and effective techniques, like the shower curtain shot, the multiple Berman's walking into the bar, the shovel switcheroo, and so forth. You can tell that the lighting didn't quite work out for the disappearing-into-the-shadows shot, but hey, it's a solid idea.
I don't think I'll ever get used to a beardless Berman without glasses, but it would seem that this is a look he's returned to recently.
Like the Palace video, the images in this little "Random Rules" movie offer a powerful transport back to the late nineties. In this case, to penniless yet youthful cold days in Eastern Coast Suburbia and turning one's collar up against the wind. But that's just me, your own reaction to these time capsules may vary.