Freedom from Ickiness with David Berman

| 5/13/2008 3:46:05 PM

David Berman2David Berman, the singer, songwriter, and creative force behind the band Silver Jews, is not only a musician but also a respected poet. In 1999, he published a book of poems, Actual Air, that was cooed over by the New Yorker and GQ and praised by Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet James Tate and former poet laureate Billy Collins. Berman is also an accomplished cartoonist whose drawings recently appeared at a gallery event organized by Dave Eggers in New York.

It’s Berman’s musical application of his literary talents, however, that are the wellspring of his success. His Silver Jews have been a going concern since the early nineties, and they’ve released a string of albums known primarily among critics for their lyrics, which tend to be funny, clever and genuinely, oddly beautiful. A quick sampler:

I had a friend, his name was Marc, with a “c."
His sister was like the heat coming off the back of an old TV.
     —“Sleeping Is the Only Love,” from Tanglewood Numbers


I love to see a rainbow from a garden hose,
Lit up like the blood of a centerfold.
I love the city and the city rain
Suburban kids with Biblical names.
     —“People,” from American Water

The latest Silver Jews album, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea, which is due out from Drag City in June, is no exception to the rule of quality Berman has established. His lyrics are poetry in a cracked, catchy, alt-country frame.

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