Purple Mountains (RIP David Berman, August 2019)

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He strikes me as a guy who possessed a high level of empathy and sensitivity and I think when faced with a brazen and smug lack of empathy (let alone in one’s own family) it can be extremely painful. Everything I’ve read about his father suggests that’s the type of person he is.

omar little, Thursday, 8 August 2019 15:24 (one year ago) link

people that knew him seem to speak affectionately of him

Ryan Adams is so thoroughly phony and full of shit, I can imagine it rankled someone who seemed to try to look life in the eye

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Thursday, 8 August 2019 15:25 (one year ago) link

i totally understand that about him, that is why i was asking to confirm. i don't know the guy personally and there is something about his relationship with his (legitimately terrible) father that struck a nerve w me when i heard it years ago. when one's father is so awful and one is so sensitive, how does one cope? it's a very lonely feeling. idk if he had siblings or not, or if they felt the same way.

weird woman in a bar (La Lechera), Thursday, 8 August 2019 15:27 (one year ago) link

I remember seeing an interview with the surviving members of joy division where they said they never paid much attention ian curtis' lyrics. Then he killed himself and they realized how much of his suffering was laid bare in those lyrics.
I'm having a similar moment listening to the purple mountains album this morning.

Just in the first minute of the first song:
"the life I lead is sickening / i spent a decade playing chicken with oblivion
day to day i'm neck and neck with giving in / i'm the same old wreck i've always been"

enochroot, Thursday, 8 August 2019 15:32 (one year ago) link

awful awful news. Back in ‘98, I remember seeing how the spine of the American Water CD mimicked the old Bob Dylan style and laughing at the chutzpah of that move – and then listening to the record over and over and thinking … “Well, fair enough.” I’m thinking now of seeing him play about a decade ago in Denver. When the last song was over, he didn’t go backstage. He hopped down and walked through the crowd, shaking hands and grinning, before cruising out into the Colfax night.

tylerw, Thursday, 8 August 2019 15:33 (one year ago) link

I don't even really care about Ryan Adams but I hated the sort of "Ryan Adams culture" that existed at his peak, this weird, phony, cold, music-critic driven rockism that felt like a bunch of desperate paleontologists dusting off rocks and bones to find something "real." A certain kind of doucheyness that is not a jock doucheyness but the guy-who-resented-the-jock-in-high-school doucheyness and thinks that the resentment = victimhood = entitlement.

I never met David Berman but he definitely seemed in his public persona and music like the opposite of that, a kind person who was really afraid he wasn't kind enough, a person driven by shame that he never did anything to deserve, who couldn't believe that he was good enough.

longtime caller, first time listener (man alive), Thursday, 8 August 2019 15:37 (one year ago) link

him, jason molina, vic chestnutt - a whole generation of great songwriters already gone.

Heez, Thursday, 8 August 2019 15:42 (one year ago) link

Elliott Smith, too...

flappy bird, Thursday, 8 August 2019 15:48 (one year ago) link

yeah i thought about "farewell transmission" last night

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Thursday, 8 August 2019 15:49 (one year ago) link

i'm crushed, too, but ... i mean there are lots of great songwriters in that generation still around!

alpine static, Thursday, 8 August 2019 15:50 (one year ago) link

I'm assembling people to read from David Berman's work outside of the Met Breuer (former location of the Whitney) as an informal memorial gesture. 7pm Thurs Aug 7th. Please spread the word, let me know if you would like to read anything, and check on your friends. #DavidBerman pic.twitter.com/3QiAz2yzqB

— Lance Bangs (@lancebangs) August 8, 2019

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Thursday, 8 August 2019 15:58 (one year ago) link

(sic: tonight, Aug 8th)

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Thursday, 8 August 2019 15:58 (one year ago) link

I'd been treating it as an out-the-other-side album, but it wasn't, obviously. Peace to you, DB.

― woof, Thursday, August 8, 2019 9:30 AM (two hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

Yeah it's really painful to realize he wasn't reflecting on past struggles.

Evan, Thursday, 8 August 2019 16:16 (one year ago) link

Just want to point out that from those recent interviews posted above, it sounds like he was still in touch with his dad, who paid for his treatment etc. I also don’t recall him saying that his dad was a bad father (other than a story about his dad being competitive when they played board games, and “he wasn’t even sorry!” when he beat young David at Sorry).

I know that DCB made his shame & hatred of his father’s professional life a structuring part of his own “story,” but I wouldn’t assume that his bad relationship with his father was a two-way street, or that his dad didn’t love him or somehow caused David’s pain through bad parenting.

60... 90... 120 Minute IPA (morrisp), Thursday, 8 August 2019 16:18 (one year ago) link

As a closing couplet, "If no one's fond of fucking me/Maybe no one's fucking fond of me" is a pretty great/sad/hilarious/heartbreaking one.

My favorite moment on Purple Mountains is his "She was, she was" in "I Loved Being My Mother's Son."

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 8 August 2019 16:36 (one year ago) link

I hadn't listened to Silver Jews in many years, so this didn't hit me the way Elliot Smith, Mark Linkhous, or Vic Chestnutt's suicides did, but having felt the sorrow after those (to this day I find it very difficult to listen to an Elliot Smith album all the way through and haven't been able to watch the documentary either) I know how this feels to those really close to his music. My friend Nick just posted on FB how this underscores how important it is for people to tell those whose art touched them what it means, and I agree, but I also know that in cases like Berman's it can fall on deaf ears, depression is an all encompassing and smothering force, and you often do not hear or accept words of love from others. That said I still shot Eitzel an email saying I was happy he was still around.

akm, Thursday, 8 August 2019 17:09 (one year ago) link

I know it’s an overstatement to talk about “all” the leading men of this generation, but between the drug toll on the grunge guys and the indie suicides (and Kurt, managing to be both), it is a pretty blasted landscape.

Gen X forever skeptical of its own achievements.

It was linked earlier, but the Ringer profile from early July is hard to read as a last-days portrait (once you get past the simple comeback-album intro).


... (Eazy), Thursday, 8 August 2019 17:20 (one year ago) link

^^ yes, that's a wonderful, heartbreaking piece

Karl Malone, Thursday, 8 August 2019 17:24 (one year ago) link

After I read that I said to my wife, “I don’t know if he’s going to live much longer.”

Gen X forever skeptical of its own achievements.

― a man often referred to in the news media as the Duke of Saxony (tipsy mothra), Thursday, August 8, 2019 1:14 PM (twelve minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

to be fair, the world for guys like Berman has changed a lot since he started releasing records, and not necessarily for the better

Paul Ponzi, Thursday, 8 August 2019 17:29 (one year ago) link

Yeah, for sure.

Yeah, that one was good. Also, I just read this interview, which I guess took place sometime in the last 48 hours?


I had read the SPIN review he refers to as being the worst, including the part about the reviewer doing a bit of projecting, I guess you could say. I also didn't like it, and I thought about bringing it up here, but what's the point of criticizing critics about their criticism of a relentless self-critic. I'd just finished trying to make a point about that upthread, and at this point I don't think it could mean any less anyway.

Self-Ignition, now that was a good song.


"...and I have to remember your not wanting me doesn't make me any less here."

del griffith, Thursday, 8 August 2019 17:38 (one year ago) link

I was really loving the new album, which despite all the scars had such a glow of tenderness and gratitude to it and it just seems so sad now

ogmor, Thursday, 8 August 2019 17:55 (one year ago) link

The first 3 or 4 Silver Jews records were (and still are) super important to me, I need to go back and listen to the last two. I've been listening to Purple Mountains a lot and like a lot of people here I was excited about seeing him live, as I never got the chance when the Jews were still going. I remember listening to this a few weeks ago and feeling a little worried for him, though I imagined that the success of the new record might maybe bring him out of it...


pophatte (admrl), Thursday, 8 August 2019 17:57 (one year ago) link

When I told David I was getting married 11 years ago, he asked me for some interesting details and observations about Colette and then just before our wedding day we received an eight-panel Berman cartoon in the post, as a gift for Colette. I'll try and dig it out this weekend. https://t.co/lzxeUrznuD

— Andrew Male (@Andr6wMale) August 8, 2019

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Thursday, 8 August 2019 18:02 (one year ago) link

disappointed but not surprised he dislikes "Old Town Road" tbh

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 8 August 2019 18:15 (one year ago) link

very fair criticism of OTR imo

Vape Store (crüt), Thursday, 8 August 2019 18:33 (one year ago) link

In 2016, we asked David Berman for a quote about the mid-90s early days of Jagjaguwar in Charlottesville. Instead, he sent a loving, hilarious and slyly beautiful poem about UVA football, the early Internet and plant life. Now, we share it with you.https://t.co/JvKfDy65t7 pic.twitter.com/oJnUWHJcwS

— JAGJAGUWAR (@jagjaguwar) August 8, 2019

Ned Raggett, Thursday, 8 August 2019 18:38 (one year ago) link

I had some feelings.


Raymond, thanks for that. I remember thinking the same thing after seeing him at the merch table after a show in 2006 ("what if, accidentally, we broke him?"), and then deciding that's bullshit. I'm a reserved fella, but if he could sack up for a US tour against his inner will, I could at least sack up to express my appreciation for it. I'm glad I got to.

a kind person who was really afraid he wasn't kind enough, a person driven by shame that he never did anything to deserve, who couldn't believe that he was good enough.

Yes, this. I had the same read on his personality.

I'd been following his blogs since 2011 or whenever, and he'd occasionally post youtubes of songs he liked, always new to me. I held his taste in pretty high esteem, so I'd always give them a few listens even if I didn't like them at first.

This one had to grow on me.

This one I liked right away.

This one he posted in the summer of 2015 before going dormant for two years. I realize now that when he posted it, it was around the same time he had been taking care of his mother in Ohio while she was dying of cancer.

del griffith, Thursday, 8 August 2019 19:01 (one year ago) link

Following some of these links brought me to this long 2008 interview with a lot of interesting stuff in it... worth a read / revisit.

60... 90... 120 Minute IPA (morrisp), Thursday, 8 August 2019 19:14 (one year ago) link

That Spin review he referenced is by Brian Howe, who’s also responsible for my least favorite Pitchfork review ever, which was a cruel and faintly misogynist takedown of a very good Edith Frost record.

omar little, Thursday, 8 August 2019 19:25 (one year ago) link

Regarding Cassie I just suddenly had the line "If it ever gets really really bad, if it ever gets really really bad/let's not kid ourselves, it gets really really bad" pop into my head, which is kind of heartbreaking in this new context.

longtime caller, first time listener (man alive), Thursday, 8 August 2019 19:29 (one year ago) link

Ned, thanks for that. I had to send it to my UVA-grad brother-in-law with a "wahoowah" attached.

I'm not even prepared to let myself start thinking about what this must be like from Cassie's side. I mean, he was well aware that the suffering gets done by the ones we leave behind.

Here's a lighter shade of his apocalypse from 1994:

A drawing David Berman sent me entitled “At The End of the World” after I interviewed him for my fanzine in 1994 pic.twitter.com/JZqLycyRNQ

— John Masters (@johnnymetro) August 8, 2019

del griffith, Thursday, 8 August 2019 20:09 (one year ago) link

Just saw these posted - three long interviews from 2013/2014. Below is the first, the other two are on the same Youtube channel.

"This is an audio-only phone interview I conducted with David Berman in late Dec 2013 when I was working on a book proposal for the 33 1/3 series on American Water. The book was never made but I thought in the wake of his death today that others might like to hear it. He talks about the difficult process of making the Natural Bridge and how American Water was so much easier, his mental health throughout that period, his writing process and more."


city worker, Thursday, 8 August 2019 20:13 (one year ago) link

If, over the last month, you'd caught me staring into the distance and asked me what I was thinking about, my honest answer would likely be one of the following:

a) nothing. the words 'ceaseless feasts of schadenfreude' are just circling round in my head.

b) the words 'ceaseless feasts of schadenfreude' have been circling round in my head for days - without a melody - and I am part-meditating on, part-wondering at David Berman's pure and precise mastery of the magic of language-sound - how can he work this phonemic hypnosis on me?

c) I'm thinking about about how 'that's just the way I feel' syntactically/formally moves perfectly, really perfectly over those first verses and god the funny/bleak/honest tone; and how I think it falls off a little with that 'I met failure in Australia' section, which almost feels like quotebait - but then he caps it with 'That’s the shit I'm talkin bout/When I talk to you about/Ceaseless feasts of schadenfreude', and that second 'ceaseless feasts' makes it feel like the trap has closed and the joke is properly deadly again.

d) Nothing. The words 'Trotting the sod of the visible with no new word from God' are just circling round in my head.

Anyway I'm drunk and just listening and staying up late.

woof, Thursday, 8 August 2019 22:21 (one year ago) link

absolutely devastating

flopson, Thursday, 8 August 2019 22:22 (one year ago) link

That Spin review he referenced is by Brian Howe, who’s also responsible for my least favorite Pitchfork review ever, which was a cruel and faintly misogynist takedown of a very good Edith Frost record.

Also her last one so far...

... (Eazy), Thursday, 8 August 2019 22:24 (one year ago) link

this guy sounds like bad company

triple-washed (Sufjan Grafton), Thursday, 8 August 2019 23:13 (one year ago) link

the world is and will always be a david berman lyric. i miss you so much, david.

— Bill Callahan (@BillCallaman) August 8, 2019

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Thursday, 8 August 2019 23:15 (one year ago) link

A great David Berman concept...: pic.twitter.com/GBnIq0flpm

— Neil Hamburger (@NeilHamburger) August 8, 2019

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Thursday, 8 August 2019 23:17 (one year ago) link

posting a pitchfork link (replete with FB tracker tag) in this thread is pretty crass imho.

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Friday, 9 August 2019 02:17 (one year ago) link


flappy bird, Friday, 9 August 2019 04:38 (one year ago) link

pitchfork didn't kill him

Simon H., Friday, 9 August 2019 05:03 (one year ago) link

Standing room only on the sidewalk outside the Met for David Berman. pic.twitter.com/IO4TH1XHkJ

— Brian Heater (@bheater) August 8, 2019

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Friday, 9 August 2019 05:30 (one year ago) link

need more embedded tweets by indie guys to atone (xp)

husserl gang (rip van wanko), Friday, 9 August 2019 05:33 (one year ago) link

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