SILVER JEWS American Water (Drag City)
Silver Jews are band so laidback they make Pavement (with whom theyre forever intertwined thanks to a revolving roster of shared members) at their slackest sound positively hyperactive. American Water is their third album, originally released in 1998.
Opener Random Rules typifies the bands, or perhaps more precisely its sole constant, David Bermans, style, smuggling a devastating emotional payload beneath a succession of quotable non-sequiturs. Thats whats so delightful about the Silver Jews music: it repays replaying. Songs that seem a little too similar to each other, with their mid-paced ambling gaits, blossom into works of dense and intricate detail, and Bermans gruff, dour, Lou Reed croon becomes a conveyance you can trust, especially when casually unloading such reflexively self-deprecating pearls as All my favourite singers couldnt sing. Having said that, its anyones guess what most of these songs are actually about spiritual torpor in suburban America, perhaps? Yet despite the lyrics being the obvious attraction in any given Silver Jews song, they can also spin a brilliant instrumental, as the hard-bucking Night Society demonstrates.
Surprisingly, the two co-writes with Stephen Malkmus (then of Pavement), Federal Dust and Blue Arrangements, are perhaps the least appealing tunes here. Send In The Clouds restores the equilibrium, though. Selected by Turin Brakes for inclusion on their excellent contribution to the Late Night Tales mix CD series, its probably the closest the album comes to a hit, almost Grandaddy-esque with its images of weeping robots. Honk If Youre Lonely is the albums sole moment of transparency: maybe all Silver Jews songs start out like this, before being randomly encoded into something verbally fascinating if narratively frustrating.