Silver Jews

Silver Jews
Courtesy of Drag City Publicity

Silver Jews – “Strange Victory, Strange Defeat”

Silver Jews frontman David Berman shares a glaring similarity with rock great Bob Dylan

He can’t sing at all.

Normally this might be a big impediment to a lead singer, but much like Dylan, he makes it work. He delivers his lyrical slice of life stories in a raspy monotone that adds a sense of authenticity to his songs. His scratchy voice gives lines like “Pain works on a sliding scale/ So does pleasure in a candy jail” in the track “Candy Jail” a level of grit that wouldn’t exist if the song was sung by the last American Idol winner.

Berman is also successful because he is a brilliant poet. He can turn a phrase with the best of them and his lyrics are rife with pithy lines, evocative imagery and sardonic wit. In “San Francisco B.C.” a tale of love gone sour, Berman sings “She said ‘you don’t make enough to provide for me’ /I said ‘what about the stuff that we quote believe?’” Similarly witty and humorous is the track “Strange Victory, Strange Defeat” that depicts the plight of a band of squirrels who dare to defy mediocrity.

The music itself also compliments Berman’s folksy fables. Berman and his sole other band member, his wife Cassie, use warm guitar chords, bright bouncing piano harmonies and simple drum beats to complement Berman’s steady lyrical delivery. The music is refreshingly upbeat and has a simple feel to it despite the intricate harmonies that the Silver Jews adeptly weave into the song. The instruments also never overpower David Berman’s voice allowing him to clearly narrate his poetic stories.

In the Silver Jews latest release, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea, Berman shares stories of life and love in throaty monotone. His limited vocal range adds grit and authenticity to his poetic narratives. Let’s hope he never takes a singing lesson.

—By Entertainment Blog Editor Alex Blum

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