Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains
5d ago (updated 5d ago)
Recently, I’ve had a lot of fun writing reviews in an objective, monotone fashion. It’s not my preferred style, and most of the revered writers on the site probably think I’m some sort of try hard, but man it’s been fun trying something new and challenging myself as a writer. Making sure I don’t repeat the same word twice in a post and all. If I’m being honest though, I don’t consider myself a critic. Just a listener of music and I just like to share what I see and feel. Every once in awhile however, an album comes along I can’t help but gush over so I apologize now as this is hardly literature.

Anyways, David Berman.

This man is one of my favorite writers of all time and much of my own inspiration stems from him. I grew up with his music, connected with it through the years on a deeply personal level. The best way I can describe his work to someone who knows nothing about him is that he’s an active conversationalist with an introverted perspective. Very few artists can capture the enigma of despondency in my eyes quite like David can. He’s extremely quotable to boot.

Needless to say, finding out he was coming out of retirement after ten years left me speechless. I couldn’t believe it and since then all I’ve listened to are the singles for this thing, at work even. (Oh lordy, the stares I’ve been getting.) For someone separated from his craft for so long, not too much has changed. There’s a certain level of newfound cynicism and disconnect directed to the audience, which might be odd for long time fans of Berman, but that’s mostly rooted in the subject matter. Life hasn’t been too kind to our dear friend as it turns out. He’s spent half a century on this planet and he’s just about had enough. As he puts it: he’s been playing chicken with oblivion. His mother passed away, he’s separated from his wife but they still live together, he had a falling out with his morally scummy father, old friends have become strangers, he’s lost faith in his life, he’s fallen into obscurity and his daily routine has been deduced to drinking margaritas at shopping malls.

Like any great artist though, his talent isn’t in innovation or what he’s singing, but how he does and how his music is indicative of such attitude. Every song is structured with a similar premise: Hokey Midwestern jukebox. On first listen, it’s almost cheery. One might wonder why he didn’t just go back to the Silver Jews moniker. But then you really start to pick apart the album and the whole experience quickly becomes isolating, full of self deprecation, intentional and unique to Berman alone. Purple Mountains is also noticeably poppier, layered and tightly woven together in direct comparison to Silver Jews’ still, laid back and subtlety content alt-country sound. Conversations can turn into venting sessions on a dime and each song is filled with more anguish than the last.

“She kept it burning longer than I had right to expect
The light of my life is going out tonight
Without a flicker of regret

Darkness and cold, darkness and cold
Rolled in through the holes in the stories I told
Conditions I'm wishing weren’t taking control
Darkness and cold, darkness and cold”

But hey, at least my parents never divorced so life must be dandy!

It’s this kind of mental fuckery that permeates Purple Mountains’ debut. For someone who usually answers the questions or spins troubling times into stories, none of Berman's own questions and conflictions are remotely answered here and frankly, asking has been a chore in of itself. It's like being on an infinite rollercoaster as you glaze your eyes over the people on the ground below having fun. Your fun perhaps? You make the most of it though and raise your hands in the air with discontent for the never ending ride ahead. Wee!

(Objective review: It good. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! The longer the word, the smarter I perceive myself out to be. Be-be-be-be that’s all folks!)
1 Comment
4d ago
wonderful review. i dont find your reviews try-hard, just sincere. its crazy reading about david bermans rough go of it and the fact that he still has the will to release music.
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