Silver Jews
American Water


5.0
classic

Review

by Sepstrup USER (20 Reviews)
December 24th, 2006 | 58 replies


Release Date: 1998 | Tracklist

Review Summary: All of Silver Jews' best qualities come together on American Water. David Berman's clever lyrics are matched by brilliant compositions of country-flavored indie-rock. A masterpiece.

There are a number of reasons why Silver Jews’ 1998 album, American Water is a noteworthy release. The most obvious one, the thing so often associated with chief song writer David Berman, is his intelligent lyrics. They are poetic, nonsensical, humorous and evocative all at the same time. This leads me to sort of a pet peeve of mine. When a song writer has one extremely prominent talent, it’s often that that one talent overshadows the rest. Jimi Hendrix’ prodigious guitar playing took the focus away from his song writing talents. More in relation to Berman, a lot of potent lyricists are written off as having only that quality. Two prominent examples are lyrical geniuses Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Obviously, a lot of people recognize that the notion is nonsense, but on many occasions have I heard people implying that Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen are just good poets, and that the music simply doesn’t match up with the lyrics. I beg to differ. Listen to the melodies of “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright” and “Famous Blue Raincoat”. If you’re not convinced I’m right, I don’t know what to tell you (*** off, maybe).

Such a case might also have been made for the Jews’ first album, Starlite Walker, a musically sloppy (charming but definitely inaccessible), lyrically brilliant debut, David Berman refutes any such notion with American Water. Starlite still displays his talent for writing a pop hook, but it is ultimately inconsistent. The ideas are fully realised on American Water. It’s a cohesive country-tinged indie-pop, which leaves little to be desired both on the musical as well as the lyrical side. It is a warm, entertaining and wholly enjoyable record, recommendable to anyone with a passing interest in indie music. Obviously, while Berman is without a doubt the main song writer, he does not deserve all of the credit. Pavement front man Stephen Malkmus plays guitar, and creates such a perfect back-drop to Berman’s lyrics, recalling indie heroes Johnny Marr and Morrissey.

If one obstruction stands between American Water and the mass of future fans waiting to absorb and adore Berman’s entrancing melodies and witty lyrics, it is his detached singing style. It emphasizes his sardonic lyrics to great effect, but can still be off-putting at first. This is evident in the first few seconds of the record, as Berman lazily (in a good way, honest) delivers the excellent line, “In 1984 I was hospitalized for approaching perfection”, in “Random Rules”. The song is rather slow and melancholic, as Berman laments his lost love. His emotionless voice renders the song much more tragic than it would have been otherwise. Even though his lyrics are often tongue-in-cheek and at times nonsensical, his delivery and the mood set by the music makes it a somewhat depressing song.

Nothing sounds out of place. For instance the shift from the melancholic “Random Rules” to the upbeat “Smiths & Jones Forever”, possibly the catchiest song on the album, is effortless. The album shifts between different moods a lot but somehow manages to create a cohesive sound at the same time. “Blue Arrangements” is funky, laid-back song, “People” is sunny pop music at its very best. “Honk If You’re Lonely” may not be of considerable lyrical depth, but it is catchy as anything and humorous. A variety of styles are covered here , brought together by the common denominator of Berman’s unmistakable lyrics and vocals and Malkmus’ country-flavoured guitarplaying.

Flaws? Filler? Downsides? In all honesty, there aren’t any. Any minor gripe you might have with the album seems to disappear with each listening. There are no explosive choruses, mind-numbing solos or other immediately gripping elements, and it is quite likely that the album won’t send you spiralling into the opposite wall of your room on the first couple of listens. American Water grows with each listen without growing old. All of Silver Jews’ best qualities come together here, and Berman & Co. bring us an unreserved masterpiece. It isn’t 1984, but David Berman certainly approached perfection here.



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user ratings (137)
Chart.
4.1
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Kaleid
December 24th 2006


711 Comments


Brilliant review. I can tell because, even though I've never heard of these guys, I really want to listen to this album. Diverse lyrics, country-tinged indie-pop and no filler sound like a winner to me

The Jungler
December 24th 2006


4827 Comments


Yeah, brilliant review, pretty much everything Spike said, except I've heard of these guys before.


AlienEater
December 24th 2006


716 Comments


Sweet review. I don't got this yet but I may

Zebra
Moderator
December 24th 2006


2647 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This was a surprisingly good album but it's definitely not a classic. Nothing really stands out for me but all of the songs are solid and easy to listen to.
This was an excellent review. It wasn't to long nor to short and you justified your five star rating.

mr_jackalope
December 24th 2006


25 Comments


One of the few 5 star reviews I've agreed with on here. This is probably the best album released in the 90s. It's grows underneath your skin and just takes you over after several listens...brilliance.

Sepstrup
December 24th 2006


1564 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It's the most subtly awesome album ever. Or something. Definitely in my top 5 of the nineties.

Also, thanks for the positive comments everyone. I thought it was my best review yet, so I'm glad you seem to have liked it.This Message Edited On 12.24.06

Two-Headed Boy
December 24th 2006


4527 Comments


I need some Silver Jews, alas they're hard to come by in my li'l town. Nice work review-wise, an interest-piquer.

barbarian
November 3rd 2007


341 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review and sense of humor. I chuckled at the ending. I have to say, though, it doesn't make me recall Marr and Morrissey.

dukes
May 7th 2009


133 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

brian warren of weatherbox recomended this, i love it.

tom79
September 3rd 2009


3384 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Smith & Jones Forever and The Wildkindness are so good. Whole album's awesome, but those two especially.

Digging: Bent Outta Shape - Bent Outta Shape

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
September 19th 2010


15082 Comments


guys get this

tom79
September 20th 2010


3384 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yes, get this. And Starlite Walker and Natural Bridge. Such a good fucking band. And so underrated too. David Berman is the man.

DinoX
September 27th 2010


3582 Comments


Album surpassed my expectations is quite decent

SeaAnemone
October 25th 2010


20970 Comments


holy fuck this has to be one of the best album's to come out of the 90's or something

Digging: Viet Cong - Viet Cong

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
October 25th 2010


15082 Comments


see i told you guys

DiceMan
October 25th 2010


7068 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I don't like it that much.

SeaAnemone
October 25th 2010


20970 Comments


you're thinking of that other album

tom79
October 26th 2010


3384 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

[quote=review]There are no explosive choruses, mind-numbing solos or other immediately gripping elements[/quote]
I dunno, The Wild Kindness' solo numbs my mind

porch
October 26th 2010


8460 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

lol yea i remember recing you this diceman. i think a bunch of people here who haven't heard this would dig
it though

in 1984 i was hospitalized for approaching perfection

juiceviaorange
November 24th 2010


286 Comments


I've wanted this album for a long time, anyone recommend any other Silver Jews albums?



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