Dusting Off An Old Love…
In my short life as a music blogger, I’m pretty sure I’ve written more about Silver Jews than any other band, and there’s been a large hole in my lyrically obsessed heart since their quiet demise in 2009. But every year at Christmas time a verse of this song finds it’s way back into my life and I end up spending a week drawn back into the Joos catalog:
I’ve been working at the airport bar
It’s like Christmas in a submarine
Wings and brandy on a winter’s night
I guess you wouldn’t call it a scene
The first time I heard this track from Tanglewood Numbers in the fall of 2005, I think I played it 20 times in a row. For some reason, I’ve always pictured this airport bar as the one in Lewisburg, WV, a tiny airport with a lot of drinkers, near where I once lived. Snow is falling and the place is dripping with colored lights and tinsel- the kind of tacky Christmas overload that is as charming as it is appalling. David Berman has always been able to wrangle a life story out of a few short words and, hey, who hasn’t hit one of those points in life where the concept of getting back together with someone from your past hasn’t seemed, at least for a minute, like a way forward as opposed to a crawl back? Add in the holidays and some alcohol and well, we’ve all been there.
Silver Jews fans are cultish about their lyrics and the more famous quip from this song is “and like a brown bird nesting in a Texaco sign, I’ve got a point of view” but it’s the airport bar line that always slays me. Joos songs are always about the lyrics but musically, I love the whole country-lounge aesthetic of this track, a categorization I assume Berman would detest, but one that creeps into several of my favorite tracks.
I was heartened to see a great article this summer in the Oxford American about Early Times, a previously unreleased set of rough Jews’ tracks from 1990-1991 when the lineup for the band was just Berman plus Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich from Pavement. Crumbs for the die-hards.
People either seem to ‘get’ Silver Jews or they don’t and I’ve been known to spend many a night trying to get people over to the other side. If you are new to Silver Jews, try this one on for starters and see where it might lead you…