Silver Jews were an indie rock band from New York City led by David Berman. Founded in 1989, Berman's initial collaborators included Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich of Pavement. The music is ragged, lo-fi indie with a country twist, often improvised. As Pavement increased in popularity, Silver Jews began to be considered as a Pavement side project, despite the fact that Berman’s poetic lyrics, guitar playing, and songwriting set the tone for the the group. This notoriety was of eventual benefit to Berman, getting the attention of Drag City records, which lead to a string of DIY EPs and the professionally recorded LP debut Starlite Walker. The Natural Bridge was recorded in the summer of 1996, but initial sessions featuring Malkmus, Nastanovich, and The Scud Mountain Boys were abandoned after a few days. The album was eventually recorded in a former gun factory in Hartford, CT, with Berman backed by New Radiant Storm King, Drag City in-house producer Rian Murphy and keyboardist Michael Deming. These new collaborators added a sense of spaciousness to the group's sound, adding some expanse in contrast to the claustrophobic early recordings. The words are still the most important part, Berman’s droll delivery enlivens his ironic punchlines, endlessly cynical over bright, study instrumentation. Album opener “How To Rent A Room” is light twang and a grown-up Jonathan Richman-esque stream of consciousness, “Pet Politics” is bass rumble and mysterious panning effects. We’ll avoid in-depth breakdowns of lyrical content here, but it’s no exaggeration to say that nearly every line sung on this record provokes thought in endless directions. This record remains somewhat divisive, but the melancholy and minimalism of this record makes it a standout in the Silver Jews catalog. This LP is pressed on standard black vinyl (the only way it was meant to be heard, really), and includes an insert with full album lyrics.
- black vinyl pressing
- includes printed insert
- music label: Drag City 2019
reviewed by SCOTT ENGEL 09/2019