i just got back from a dream attack, it took me by surprise
steve malkmus was the parallel second great crush of my music life (alongside jon spencer). he was the kinda guy i could see myself ending up with; someone smart and smart mouthed, a bit awkward, who talked a lot of crap. but the silver jews were ultimately about david berman, an equally complicated egotist and artist.
at the start of this album, trains across the sea literally sounds like you’re on a train, a great effect. by far the best song, however, is new orleans. its key is low and off, and david’s spoken-word style of singing stands out as even more abstract, but the whole thing works so well. other parts of the album are just noise that i know well, listening to it again, but that don’t serve or add anything. this includes some of david’s poetry and found sounds of parties. it did actually come across as too pretentious sometimes.
in hindsight it seems weird that this album was released in the same year as crooked rain (1994), and only five years into the life of pavement itself as the better known of malkmus’ endeavours. i didn’t pick it up til probably about 1997 as it was under the pavement section at adelaide’s legendary old-style record store, big star (vale). but the lives of the two bands were in tense parallel existence.
i’ll obviously get to the next couple of releases from the silver jews, because both are phenomenally excellent (and i may discover that about the later work too, which i’ve rarely listened to). but as a start for them, this rambled, occasionally peaked and otherwise slightly annoyed. this was (almost) the earliest that i went near music that had religious themes, and that still makes me a bit uncomfortable.
but my feelings about this album don’t translate to how amazing i think the contribution of this band is to broader things, not least my appreciation of different sounds, beliefs and concepts. and truly, wait for the next two albums!
well there’s trouble in the hall, trouble up the stairs, and trouble in the trouble that’s troubling the air
[note: this is clearly not the silver jews, but a most excellent cover of new orleans by a french band]