“American Water is not a Pavement album, but could play one on TV,” opened a blurb I once read in a popular magazine in regards to the Silver Jews 1998 release. While the literary hook may seem like a lazy analogy for the initiated, I fully endorse the author’s clever attempt to hip some indie-minded readers to “a Pavement side project.” Stephen Malkmus’s presence is strong on Water, after all.
For the initiated, however, The Silver Jews true breakout record was their sophomore LP, The Natural Bridge. This is a David Berman affair from start to finish. A stellar collection of ramshackle tunes with a well calibrated lyrical mix of sublime and wit.
The track Dallas, stands out with one of the best opening lines in the game.
I passed out on the fourteenth floor,
The CPR was so erotic.
We saw B.B.King on General Hospital
in the Oak Cliff dramhouse where we stayed
and when Clancy whipped her with his belt buckle
he cleaned her cuts and then we prayed
O Dallas you shine with an evil light
Don’t you know that God stays up all night?
And how did you turn a billion steers
into buildings made of mirrors,
and why am I drawn to you tonight?
The Natural Bridge showcases Berman’s lyrical gifts at length, but something about this song seems to be the perfect storm of Bermanisms. A fever dream meditation of a drug induced adventure, a civil war era character in Clancy, and a waxing on the bovine industrialization of a city.
“We saw B.B. King on General Hospital,” is classic line. How does Berman come up with this stuff? Well, after only 19 years of listening to this song, it finally struck me that Berman probably actually saw B.B. King on General Hospital.
A simple YouTube search confirms. Dig that intro from the infamous Luke! He sees lots of Others. Nothing at all awkward here in this video of soap actors pretending to be into the blues.
Silver Jews – Dallas