by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Silver Jews - "Strange Victory, Strange Defeat". Saw the Silver Jews with Dan last night. What an amazing, beautiful show. David Berman up there like a kid and a teenager and a wise-man, all at once. He and Cassie having conversations with their eyes, there for us all to see. The band playing their instruments with a fierceness I'd not heard before; the Silver Jews' live sound is more fearsome, sparking, wild than on record. And still Berman's lyrics cutting right through, mouth close to the mic, words slipped into our ears like hands into pockets. Sweat was pouring off his face like from the spout of a teapot.

I saw the Silver Jews two years ago, in Edinburgh. It was their eighteenth-ever gig. Last night was their sixty-ninth. Though in 2006 there was a more innocent joy to the show - a clean country jubilance just in singing the songs, - last night's freer, louder stuff shook the heart even more. Now is when you should go see the Silver Jews. They're at a threshold - still new enough at this that every night's a discovery, a shambles, a treasure; but comfortable enough in their touring shows that the songs, well, they kick ass. The balance won't stay this way forever.

But some of what I wrote for Plan B two years ago is still true. Not the earring -- the gist:

We’re not losing ourselves in the crowd – eyes rolling back in our heads as we cheer. No. I watch the earring on Berman’s ear, like a tattoo brought back from sea. I watch the way Cassie looks at David, sometimes, when he doesn’t look back. I watch the way he glares at his monitor or stumbles over a lyric. And I feel a mortal kind of joy – the stuff of human beings and human lives. The sterling wonder of a gift that’s made by fallible human hands, by creatures with hearts more silver than gold.
I still can't quite get into Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea, but there's a moment to "Strange Victory, Strange Defeat" that's like defibrillator paddles on rainy Thursday mornings, hot Wednesday nights. WE'RE COMING OUT OF THE BLACK PATCH. WE'RE COMING OUT OF THE POCKET. Yup.

Posted by Sean at September 4, 2008 12:49 PM

Having been a fan for so long and being in a room full of fans who, just like me, thought they might never see them was...well...hard to believe.

Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea feels like a different version of the Silver Jews, the Dave and Cassie to the max one. A lot of the songs seem like they came out of what must have started with Tennessee. Open the Field and We could be looking for the same thing are really heartfelt, kinda pretty, dreamy duets. And then Candyjail and Party Barge have a real cheesiness to them that only Berman can get away with.

That being said, it was so fitting that they also played a few off of Tanglewood Numbers and then closed the encore with Tennessee. Just wish they'd come by and do it for us again - sometime in the next ten years would be great!

BTW - just discovered your blog and am loving it - so thanks!

Posted by Jessica Andrews at September 4, 2008 11:04 PM

That's great to hear. I always thought that the SJs were a band that I just...couldn't see live, since it'd invariably be kind of disappointing, even if Berman's the greatest, which he is.

I agree re: the new album. Oy, I'm not into it one iota.

What did you think of Hallelujah the Hills? They were one of my favorite Boston bands. Some of their songs are fantastic.

Posted by Elisabeth at September 4, 2008 11:45 PM

Jessica: Welcome!

Elisabeth: Definitely, definitely go see them. As for HtH I, um... missed them!

Posted by sean at September 5, 2008 9:38 AM

I didn't know what to make of the new SJ album when I first got it, either. It's grown on me tremendously. It has a sonic and lyric bombasticity to it that is beyond anything Berman's ever done before, bordering at times on the absurd, and often just wonderfully playful and thoughtful and funny and smart. It's Smith and Jones put through a bigger PA. He's playing to the back of the hall. I have to think that it's reflective of DB's getting out and touring and, apparently, doing it well. Good for him and the rest of them.

Posted by Andy at September 8, 2008 11:53 AM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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