Purple Mountains is the self-titled debut that marks David Berman’s return to music after a decade away in the middle-aged wilderness of finding himself amid such bourgeoise crises as the death of a romantic partnership and wrestling with the fact that his right-wing, anti-humanist, lobbyist-cunt father is a voice for pure evil.
He released a couple of books and then made his return – creating, instantly, another cult-act. There’s, straight-away, much about Purple Mountains that picks up on/carries on with his finest Silver Jews material. But maybe this is even better. Marrying the wit and wild wonder of lyrics to a Lemonheads-goes-country-rock melodic bed we get a handful of Eels-meets-Pavement slacker anthems that could only have arrived after alt-country calmed down and fucked right off.
These are sad-sack wallows for those of us that miss the mordant frustrations conveyed in the very best of not only the Silver Jews’ work but across the canon of late-90s/early-00s indie-pop.
And Berman’s lyrical snatches are little prose-poems of smug brilliance:
“When you’re seller and commodity/you’ve got to sell yourself immodestly/turn your pedestal into a carving board/if that’s what the audience is starving for.”
“The dead know what they’re doing when they leave this world behind”
“The end of all wanting/is all I’ve been wanting.”
“The light of my life is going out tonight without a flicker of regret”.
“If no one’s fond of fucking me/Maybe no one’s fucking fond of me.”
“See the plod of the flawed individual looking for a nod from God.”
Very soon, after the best opening tetralogy of songs I’ve heard in a decade or more, you can turn to any tune here, as you might turn to a page in a David Sedaris tome, and simply expect a giggle. And it’s the type of laugh that comes with recognising a sardonic philosophy being breadcrumb-scattered throughout the work; bone-dry.
Plus you get to hear the word ‘tantamount’ not only once, but actually twice in the opening lines to mid-album highlight, She’s Making Friends, I’m Turning Stranger.
It’s all so easy to adore this too – the album never forcing itself on you, simply lurking, skulking, biding time. You’ll either like this or love this. There’s no reason at all to not like this. The simple melodies, the laugh-at-loud lyrics, the comfortable-croon delivered deadpan.
It’ll deservedly show up on end of year lists charing the best releases of 2019.
I’ll leave you with the sing-song rap of Storyline Fever’s opening voice and chorus.
On occasion, we all do battle with motivational paralysis
Unable to perform some simple task
Trapped at the stage of analysis
Thoughts of the shortness of life may beget
Bouts of shortness of breath in your chest
Doubts about the worth of the nights you got left
Crowding out all the fear and regret
You got storyline fever, storyline flu
It’s filtering how everything looks to you
Don’t you reckon it’s affecting your attitude?
Storyline fever got its hooks in you
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