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AlexGoldstein on 08/10/2010 at 12:40PM

Silver Jews live WFMU session

Silver Jews performing live at Nashville's Exit/In, October 12, 2008, on the same tour they stopped by WFMU's Theory of Everything hosted by Benjamen Walker. (photo CC BY-ND Rebecca Gillespie via flickr)

A few months before reclusive poet/songwriter David Berman decided to end the Silver Jews in the revelation his group was powerless against his father, corporate lobbyist Richard "Dr. Evil" Berman, they stopped by Benjamen Walker's show to deliver a terrific and career spanning set.

Hearing songs like "Sometimes a Pony Gets Depressed" performed right after the Joos' signature tune "Random Rules" offers a cool contrast for the band's range throughout its nearly two decade existence. With a revolving cast of indie-rock luminaries that included Will Oldham, Paz Lenchantin, Jesus Lizard's Duane Denison, Mike Fellows, and most notably Stephen Malkmus, Bob Nastanovich, and Steve West of Pavement, it was hard for some not to write the Silver Jews off as a side project to bigger, more "established" rock acts. But within this particular performance, Berman clearly shows that he was at the helm of the sound of the band, a sound which could be, like Donnie & Marie, a little bit country and a little bit rock'n'roll.

The musical aspect of the group was unfortunately lost to some reviewers who were completely taken aback by Berman's lyrics... abstract, poignant, and definitely compelling. The Silver Jews arguably have two of the best album-opening lines in rock history: The Natural Bridge begins with "No, I don't really wanna die / I only wanna die in your eyes," while American Water begins with the eternal "In 1984, I was hospitalized for approaching perfection." In this session, these two songs ("How To Rent A Room" and "Random Rules," respectively) are performed back-to-back, a classic one-two punch that's hard to forget.

The real gem here is "Horseleg Swastikas" from 2001's underrated Bright Flight, with visions of being "chased by a floating hatchet", acting "like a rabbit freezing on a star", and a desire to be "like water", because simply put, "water doesn't give a damn." This take of "Horseleg Swastikas" is paired with a sense of hope and regret, anger and sorrow, and all those other things that rock bands try to write about but can't because they don't have the tenacity of David Berman. Or maybe because they just aren't David Berman.

>> Silver Jews, Live at WFMU on Benjamen Walker's Theory of Everything, September 8th 2008

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