I Love You to the Max

Music editor, Robert Baird, comes over and asks: "How’s it going, chief?"
The "chief" part I take as a compliment. This is a magazine publishing company we’re working for, after all.
"Not bad," I say, while handing him the new Silver Jews album I purchased last night: "Have you heard this yet? It’s pretty good."
"Oh yeah," he responds, "It’s great. Did you buy this?"

I’ve grown accustomed to Robert asking me if I actually paid money for albums, as if there’s any other way for me to get them.
Nearly embarrassed, but not quite (realizing there’s no reason for me to be embarrassed), I admit: "Yes. I’ve been spending a lot of money on music lately."
"I was about to say…" he agrees. "You’ve been shelling out lots of dough."

Robert shakes his head at me, wags a finger at me, chides me for spending money on albums that we could potentially wrestle from labels free-of-charge due to our positions here at the magazine.

But, I can’t help it, dude. When I hear about an album I want, the first thing I do is wonder if it’s available in stores. I don’t think about sending an e-mail to the band’s label guy and asking if I can get hooked up. First of all, I would just feel kinda crummy about it. I mean, someone deserves to get paid for this thing. It’s more than pretty good. Robert was right; it’s great. I don’t really know where my money’s going, but I’m glad I got this album in return for it. I’m loving it, and I’ve already forgotten how much I spent for it. (It was $16.99, dammit.)

Second, if I were to ask a label to send me a record, I would inevitably feel obliged to write something about it, and I really don’t want to feel obliged to do anything because as soon as I realize obligation, I become super-lazy and rebellious — and depressed(!) even — and, come on, who wants to be depressed? I’m all for making something pretty and creating a piece of art here, and while depression can be a good source of artistic inspiration, obligation — at least of the moral sort — doesn’t work for me. Obligation just pisses me off. I want to be moved in that same kind of way that her voice, her skin, her eyes move me. I want to write because there’s nothing else for me to do, but write. I want to have to — need to — write. I don’t want to write out of debt. That’s no fun.

Finally, when I know there’s an album out there that I want, I don’t want to wait for someone else to send it to me. Waiting for something I want — waiting for something I need — is hard. There are plenty of things worth waiting for — a sunny day, love, a walk through Bryant Park with the most beautiful woman in the world for the spectacular grand opening of "The Pond" — but, when I can just go out and buy a CD, I’ll do it. Even if it is $16.99, dammit.

But let me make one thing clear: I have nothing against receiving gifts. If some record label guy out there wants to send me a certain CD because he thinks I’ll like it and hopes that I’ll write about it, but understands that I might not, well, I’m all for that. No prob.

And, so: What’s so great about this Silver Jews album?

Well, there're these lines in "Sleeping is the Only Love" (and ain’t that the truth sometimes?) that go:

I knew this guy his name was Mark with a C.
His sister was like the heat coming off the back of an old TV

And, dang, that just does it for me.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, god, then there’s the way the album starts with "Punks in the Beerlight," and how the verse just builds so perfectly to the chorus — intensity and volume rising and twisting slowly — and then, the chorus — the chorus(!) — the chorus just drops into this spine-tingling, knee-buckling, head-banging break of hot girl vocals going:

If it gets really really bad
If it ever gets really really bad…

And, then — before you can even deal with the beauty — that hot girl-action is suddenly complimented by more ugly man vocals, chiming in:

Let’s not kid ourselves.
It gets really really bad

As if there’s no use in pretending that there ever really is an "if." Things do get really, really bad. They do and they will, and when they do, if nothing else — if no one else — I want you to know that I love you. I do, and will. And, yeah, I paid for this album.

I paid for it because I wanted it, and more: because I wanted to share it with someone.

Newbilong's picture

another Drag City band! Smog and Joanna Newsom played here (Wellington NZ) last week. Fantastic gig -- we liked the way Smog flirted coyly with the microphone. then Joanna Newsom had us spellbound. everyone was saying Kate Bush", Tori Amos," Bjork"". But she's sui generis. I'll go and put some Smog on (now I have upgraded my speakers and amp) and see if i hear the same stuff as you did at Wes's. then i'll put on Diamond Sea -- you should hear Thurston improv on a feedback theme at a noise music show somewhere.

Stephen Mejias's picture

First of all, I have to say that I think it's awesome that you're all the way out in Wellington, NZ, and I'm all the way out in NYC, and we're communicating. Awesome. And, yeah - Drag City is just great. It might be my very favorite label these days.I haven't seen Joanna Newsom play live yet, but I imagine that she is spellbinding. I think you're right - she defies comparisons.Yes, please let me know what you think about the Smog album.I've actually seen Thurston Moore do his solo improv stuff lots of times; it was something I loved when I was in college, but I'm not so attracted to it anymore. He'll be playing here in NYC on November 3rd, at a place called Rothko. I'm not sure if I'm gonna make it. Maybe. I'll be sure to let you know if I do.Thanks for writing.

Donald N.'s picture

Yeasss (best impression of Dean Moriarity a.k.a. Neal Cassady)! Need to check some of your musical tastes out - I love new endeavors! Thanks for the intro. Wonder where they got the name Silver Jews...probably an interesting story behind that one.

Stephen Mejias's picture

>Yeasss (best impression of Dean Moriarity a.k.a. Neal Cassady)! Really? That's funny; I've read almost none of that Beat stuff. And no Kerouac or Cassady, at all. Heh. >Need to check some of your musical tastes out - I love new endeavors! Thanks for the intro. Wonder where they got the name Silver Jews...probably an interesting story behind that one.I'm only just getting to know Silver Jews, myself, but I fell in love almost immediately. I hope you like them, too. Let me know what you think.

nick's picture

In response to Donald N.'s posting aboiut the origin of the Silver Jews' name:In an interview that I read w/ David Berman about 10 years ago, he said that he wanted to start a band who's name referenced the Silver Beatles and/or the Silver Apples. Since he's Jewish, we get the Silver Jews. Pretty simple.