Purple Mountains (RIP David Berman, August 2019)

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i have issues!

So do I -- they accumulate on my living room table week after week!

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 9 August 2019 15:30 (nine months ago) link

ummm I think y'all are doing some very strange projecting onto that very sweet & mild obit essay but w/e

“Hakuna Matata,” a nihilist philosophy (One Eye Open), Friday, 9 August 2019 15:30 (nine months ago) link

otm

tylerw, Friday, 9 August 2019 15:39 (nine months ago) link

lol, yes and see my 2-3 yrs thing... their longform stuff has if anything improved in the last couple yrs imo

but

the obit essay bummed me. likely i am strangely projecting. but why should everything be neatly wrapped up into a new yorker obit or pitchfork piece? his life was evidently severely messy, as most of ours probably are upon reasonable inspection, and the tone of her piece rubs me the wrong way.

Berman’s friends were supporting him, caring for him; his record label, Drag City, was, too, even housing him in recent months. His fans were eager for his tour, which was to begin this weekend. We wish he hadn’t suffered; we’re grateful he existed. We loved him to the max.

um, ok? it just seems weirdly antiseptic. i mean i guess I am just bitter for the very fact of him killing himself, and it's spilling over, but i hate the attempt to wrap it up into a neat package by legacy media or whatever.

dell (del), Friday, 9 August 2019 15:45 (nine months ago) link

Death, unfortunately, is great PR. But I don't see what makes this piece any worse (or any better) than any of the other mostly identical 15 or 20 I've read over the past 24 hours.

Paul Ponzi, Friday, 9 August 2019 15:50 (nine months ago) link

I liked the New Yorker piece and I don't really understand these criticisms.

longtime caller, first time listener (man alive), Friday, 9 August 2019 16:06 (nine months ago) link

As advanced as we consider ourselves,
we still allow ad copy to pander to us.
The scam exposed, it endures with our permission
as a parallel narrative running beside our lives
where we sit with an unbuttered baked potato
and a warm beer in multiple versions of Akron
leavened with foreclosure, heartburn and rain.

Great-grandfather’s hobbies, whether they be botany or magic,
can barely make sense to a boy named Occupant III.

Their genius was to let us criticize them
until it became boring and obvious to do so.

Meanwhile they were up ahead, busily constructing a world
in which boring and obvious criticism
was about the worst thing you could do,
and when we reached them in time they were waiting
with their multiple Akrons,
always one link ahead in the chain of consent.

del griffith, Friday, 9 August 2019 16:22 (nine months ago) link

OTOH I listened to the Kreative Kontrol interview and I found the host's joviality painful--I guess to no fault of his own since it's not like he knew Berman was going to die, but some of his readings of things annoyed me, particularly when he missed the fact that drinking margaritas at the mall is obviously supposed to evoke something depressing, not something "fun"--in fact it's the bad simulacra of fun that makes it especially depressing. I think the host even said something about it being like a "resort"--no dude, it's fucking called "margaritas at the mall"! Not at a resort!

longtime caller, first time listener (man alive), Friday, 9 August 2019 16:26 (nine months ago) link

man, don't you just hate it when people are wrong

del griffith, Friday, 9 August 2019 16:35 (nine months ago) link

just seems fucked up in light of the overall thrust of his lyrics and stuff. but whatever... everything sucks, for real.

dell (del), Friday, 9 August 2019 16:58 (nine months ago) link

(meant for the people defending the new yorker article).

dell (del), Friday, 9 August 2019 17:00 (nine months ago) link

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

2.4

ayo those are his friends and colleagues, not a gaggle of "indie" (your word) edgelords who deleted their negative tweets/subtweets (in shame?)

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Friday, 9 August 2019 17:08 (nine months ago) link

didn't know his hatred for his dad was so well deserved

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Friday, 9 August 2019 17:19 (nine months ago) link

oh totally

sleeve, Friday, 9 August 2019 17:21 (nine months ago) link

I've now read the New Yorker thing and I think it's fine for what it is, but I agree w/del about how it feels a little weird to be summing up the "messiness" of this guy's life in a patly written thinkpiece; especially when he has so many interviews online that you can go back and read to really get a sense of who he was, what he was about, and the stuff he was dealing with. But these third-person essays aren't written for me, I don't need the hundredth piece quoting the lyrics of "People" or whatever; I guess they're intended to bring DCB to the attn. of readers who weren't aware of him (...but even then, in this context, it's like... ok? better late than never, I guess?)

60... 90... 120 Minute IPA (morrisp), Friday, 9 August 2019 18:02 (nine months ago) link

if i ever felt an "active wonder" listening to something I would ask my gp to up my depends scrip.

― dell (del), Friday, August 9, 2019 4:26 PM (two hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

i lold

cheese canopy (map), Friday, 9 August 2019 18:07 (nine months ago) link

also wb dell

cheese canopy (map), Friday, 9 August 2019 18:08 (nine months ago) link

There's a lot of love in this, I think:

https://www.caughtbytheriver.net/2019/08/caught-by-the-reaper-david-berman/?fbclid=IwAR3ZYKGgnYaKIFSm3WVPNKIdUrVfInq8biDBIyt2qD6uNDX8tsTjdJR__wo

Thanks for posting this.

EvR, Friday, 9 August 2019 18:32 (nine months ago) link

I hate comparing two albums due to their creators fates, but this really reminds me of Vic Chestnutt’s ‘At the Cut’. Both come from this place of clear pain and oblivion (their word) but they seem to somehow be conquering it through wit and melody

Heez, Friday, 9 August 2019 18:59 (nine months ago) link

*whispers* you dont need a scrip for depends

gbx, Friday, 9 August 2019 19:16 (nine months ago) link

This Nastanovich quote, mentioned above:

It was enlightening to have such a talented friend at a young age and realize that the talent wasn’t always a blessing.

Is easily the most satisfying eulogy to the man I've read over the past couple of days. That Berman would've been so concise in his delineation of human experience (its joy, questioning, confusion, suffering) suggests a hyper-sensitivity that could easily turn a cloudy day into an unbearable tragedy. What comforts me through his passing, aside from the fact that he left behind such a generous and rich body of work, is the hope that, along with the "storms" that his eulogists have repeatedly referred to as defining his life, there was also a balance of equally profound and exquisite joyousness, also. The eulogies I've read on Facebook from friends who had personal relationships with the man suggest that this was the case, story after story about what a delight he was.

flamboyant goon tie included, Friday, 9 August 2019 19:29 (nine months ago) link

thanks map.
it fucking sucks and yeah there is projection involved as a given in that we probably all know ppl who have been like, "okay, outta here" and subsequently it always brings up a lot of fucked-up feelings. they say that funerals and other associated rites are for the survivors more than the departed, and so this is my way of honoring him atm. if he was selfish enough to kill himself then i think it's ok for me to be selfish enough to throw a little fit about the state of, what'd i call it up there, "legacy media"? it's all good. i wasn't even a huge silver jews fan but i was a huge fan of what david berman stood for -- to me, in my mind. a sort of demonstrative naked honesty and unwillingness to compromise and a staunch if shocking ability to make (literal!) poetry of it.

dell (del), Friday, 9 August 2019 19:42 (nine months ago) link

there was also a balance of equally profound and exquisite joyousness, also. The eulogies I've read on Facebook from friends who had personal relationships with the man suggest that this was the case, story after story about what a delight he was.

otm. I like how Bob Nastanovich always seems to make a point to call attention to DBs humor. We all know his lyrics were wry and funny, but Bob will go out of his way to refer to DB as a "poet and humorist" and things like that. Beyond just "oh yeah he was a real funny guy", making sure he gets credit as someone who worked hard to make people laugh with his work.

“Hakuna Matata,” a nihilist philosophy (One Eye Open), Friday, 9 August 2019 20:18 (nine months ago) link

i’d recommended the new purple mountains album to a colleague last week and as we normally bond over megan thee stallion and suchlike wasn’t sure what she’d think about it... she loved it and did some first listen notes:

General
Lyrics! This man is a poet non? (ed: googled, OK, yes, he is) By turns jaunty/mellow Americana with sad sad sad lyrics. He sounds so lonely.

That's just the way that I feel - super, love this song, more poppy than the rest. Can see why you’ve listened to it so much.

Snow is falling in Manhattan – “salts the stoop and scoops the cat in” lovely. This song feels like being wrapped up in a blanket in front of a fire which fits lyrics, obv. Feels like someone longing for security and safety. Liked the jarring use of smithereens. Eesh.

Shes making friends I'm turning stranger - Any song w tantamount in the opening line = cool. I know it’s about him but I like the way he draws this woman. Smalltown superstar. A bright character.

The rest kind of blend together tbh but words! Fond of fuxking fuxking fond of me. Stand the standard distance distant strangers stand apart. Happy hour got us by the balls. Try to drown thoughts in gin worst ideas know how to swim.

On the music, I like the shuffly guitar and drums. I don’t know how to describe it. Wooshywooshy softness. doesn’t sound like the words which, if you were to match music to it, would prob sound like screaming in pain.


and then next day she was “dave berman died :(“

Fizzles, Friday, 9 August 2019 20:30 (nine months ago) link

if he was selfish enough to kill himself then i think it's ok for me to be selfish enough to throw a little fit about the state of, what'd i call it up there, "legacy media"? it's all good.

Eh, I'd say not really. You're two entirely different people making two very different decisions for two very different reasons. I totally get the point you're making about these hermetically-sealed obituaries to be packaged and sold so people can read about them for 30 seconds and then maybe click on an ad, and it irritates me too, but why let yourself be surprised? If I'm understanding you correctly, your issue is with ad-driven media and isn't at all exclusive to the case of David Cloud Berman.

along with the "storms" that his eulogists have repeatedly referred to as defining his life, there was also a balance of equally profound and exquisite joyousness, also. The eulogies I've read on Facebook from friends who had personal relationships with the man suggest that this was the case, story after story about what a delight he was.

Yep. In the wake of a suicide, it's natural to point to some of the gloomier attitudes in the songs and be like "see! see!" but we're talking about the guy who wrote "I'm gonna shine out in the wild kindness and hold the world to its word." The unwillingness to compromise, the punk principles (the Germs tattoo!) were a huge part of what I liked about him, even if that mentality fueled a lot of his less hopeful perspectives too. Ultimately, I believe he was a self-righteous force for good, as evidenced by the fact that I wasn't the only fan to receive a few of his apparently abundant gestures of friendliness.

del griffith, Friday, 9 August 2019 20:57 (nine months ago) link

I can't help but contrast the dead American Jewish genius with the dead Canadian Jewish genius and note the similarities and contrasts between Berman and Cohen.

First of all I say "Jewish" but it's not actually about Judaism, it's about (firstly) a relationship with spirituality and a desire to capture the infinite, and (secondly) about having zero practical musical talent and seeing that as an asset rather than a burden (and it absolutely is an asset, as a songwriter).

There is the fact that Canadian songwriters are unable to make references to Canadian places-- America is The Place, Canada is not The Place, and so making a reference to Portland or San Francisco is within the territory of the collective human consciousness, but making a reference to Medicine Hat or Quebec City seems comedic, like the songwriter is suddenly in drag and doing a bit.

There is the fact that Berman was a prodigious brainstormer and Cohen was a prodigious editor-- every line of a Berman song was an epiphany or a wordplay more powerful than the entire song of a lesser songwriter, but the lines were seldom effectively unified to a single thesis-- Cohen, on the other hand, was devoted to a thesis, and didn't allow for hairiness or inefficiency, but his songs were not as confounding as Berman's songs were.

flamboyant goon tie included, Friday, 9 August 2019 21:14 (nine months ago) link

xposts Yes, fair enough...

aside from that, I'd been scared to listen to purple mountains over the past day or so but man it's actually a really life-affirming record? to my ears. Like the honky-tonk vibe on the first track only escalates the dude you just need another drink or a nap thing. get out of the metaphorical west and into the actual space away from your mind. is that a crazy reading? it's something like felt's all the people i like are those that are dead. yes! exactly! so taken to its logical conclusion it's like a health powder. be those crystal spires my man

dell (del), Friday, 9 August 2019 21:17 (nine months ago) link

I listened to it today, and enjoyed it; listening felt like the appropriate tribute, and the record did feel more affirming than sad. Though "Nights That Won't Happen" definitely hits you.

60... 90... 120 Minute IPA (morrisp), Friday, 9 August 2019 21:23 (nine months ago) link

It is life-affirming. It's a beautiful work of art. It's a gift to us. Its very existence affirms the life-time spent making it. This is easy for me to say because I wasn't a personal friend of his, and I don't know for a fact that he died on his own terms. But I suspect he did. And just because someone dies on their own terms doesn't mean their life was meaningless, or that they didn't enhance other peoples lives while they were here.

I feel the album can be safely summarized by these lines from the first track:

A setback can be a setup for a comeback if you don't let up
but this kind of hurting won't heal.
The end of all wanting is all I've been wanting
and that's just the way that I feel.

You don't have to be Ian Curtis's former bandmates to retroactively read that the way it was intended.

I will miss more songs from him, constantly.

del griffith, Friday, 9 August 2019 21:38 (nine months ago) link

been feeling the comforting intention of Snow is Falling in Manhattan

triple-washed (Sufjan Grafton), Friday, 9 August 2019 22:22 (nine months ago) link

There is the fact that Canadian songwriters are unable to make references to Canadian places-- America is The Place, Canada is not The Place, and so making a reference to Portland or San Francisco is within the territory of the collective human consciousness, but making a reference to Medicine Hat or Quebec City seems comedic, like the songwriter is suddenly in drag and doing a bit.

different kind of sadness but this reminded me of another dead canadian genius

american bradass (BradNelson), Friday, 9 August 2019 22:28 (nine months ago) link

these hermetically-sealed obituaries to be packaged and sold so people can read about them for 30 seconds and then maybe click on an ad

I gotta say, I really dont get the characterization of pieces like that NYer obit as being crass commercial clickbait cash-ins? Surely there are more popular and clickworthy things that could have taken up that space than a personal essay-obit on a marginal poet-songwriter who probably didn't sell 20k copies of any single album? Like whatever your criticisms of that piece might be, clearly the writer was a huge fan and had an honest connection to him & his music and wanted to express something about it. Whether she did his life & work justice or not, she obviously wasn't sitting thinking "I've gotta quickly churn some uplifting words out about this ultra-minor-celebrity to get those newyorker.com pageviews up to our weekly quota!"

“Hakuna Matata,” a nihilist philosophy (One Eye Open), Friday, 9 August 2019 22:37 (nine months ago) link

I get that people feel protective of him but it's not exactly like post-Cobain vultures feasting on his legacy. A lot of writers had a strong enough connection to his music taht they felt compelled to write something, and in the 24hrs they had to turn around a piece some hit the mark better than others but I dont think anyone is getting rich off of David Berman obits this week.

“Hakuna Matata,” a nihilist philosophy (One Eye Open), Friday, 9 August 2019 22:38 (nine months ago) link

Of note:

Patiently waiting forever for the album made by Berman, Bejar and Malkmus, which Berman rejected on completion.

— Judy MillerSilverman (@motormouthmedia) August 9, 2019

I recall seeing it on the Dropbox I share with the studio and thinking I shouldn’t listen to someone’s unfinished album. There is a code there.

— Carl Newman (@ACNewman) August 9, 2019

Ned Raggett, Friday, 9 August 2019 22:40 (nine months ago) link

Yeah that’s pretty wild — is it the same songs as on the purple mountains LP or other stuff entirely?

tylerw, Friday, 9 August 2019 22:44 (nine months ago) link

excellent posts from fgti

budo jeru, Friday, 9 August 2019 22:55 (nine months ago) link

“Diamonds in the Mine” feels in some ways like the ur-text for Purple Mountains.

... (Eazy), Friday, 9 August 2019 23:44 (nine months ago) link

Pulled up my 2008 tour diary tonight. From the week opening for #SilverJews pic.twitter.com/3H7m0aOjmT

— Ryan H. Walsh (@JahHills) August 9, 2019

... (Eazy), Friday, 9 August 2019 23:55 (nine months ago) link

I really dont get the characterization of pieces like that NYer obit as being crass commercial clickbait cash-ins?

Just to clarify, I haven't read it, but I don't have a problem with it. I was just responding to dell's grievance about the alleged tone of this eulogy piece in particular by saying that I can empathize with the frustration of having to see these sorts of things under these sorts of circumstances in general ("hey, someone died, so here's a tribute").

del griffith, Saturday, 10 August 2019 00:02 (nine months ago) link

thanks del griffith for yr post upthread (I should change my name if I keep on posting!)

speaking for myself, yeah, yah i don't think it's like, reflexx quickbait but it's irritating nonetheless. maybe none of us know how to best write about the recently departed but for whatever reason that piece just seemed like an empty and fairly depressing neoliberal exercise. but whatever. that's just one dell's take.

dell (del), Saturday, 10 August 2019 00:16 (nine months ago) link

I hear ya. If one doesn't make a living stringing together words for people to read, then one would have no reason to rush to put out some words for sale about someone suddenly departed. The things you've said in the past, and everything that will eventually be written about them anyway, should be good enough for now.

(I think you were here first, so that'd be on me! I'm probably due for a name change/message board resignation anyway if I'm getting emotionally invested enough to interject myself into conversations about issues that I believe deep down are pointless)

del griffith, Saturday, 10 August 2019 00:34 (nine months ago) link

the double del of heat

del griffith, Saturday, 10 August 2019 00:34 (nine months ago) link

this song never needed that pre-chorus anyway

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_xumPRwjxA

del griffith, Saturday, 10 August 2019 00:37 (nine months ago) link

aw man, that is a good song.

postscript of sorts, i recently took a trip out west and stopped at an antique store in antelope valley w my girlfriend. the proprietor was otherwordly charming and warned us that there might be flash floods coming over the mountains before we walked in. she was really beautiful. she had some eighties-era country music blasting throughout the store and now I wish I had followed up on my my thought of asking her exactly what it was! It was all one artist, one cd (she was old school that way) but it was very much like the tune you posted above. The funny or not-so-funny thing is, ever since that trip i have been wanting to listen to country music before, during, and after. Whether Beachwood Sparks pastiches or Waylon late night songs. The landscape hit me hard, it was right on that part where nevada slants and you can be in California in an instant. This country is insanely beautiful. Damn.

dell (del), Saturday, 10 August 2019 01:32 (nine months ago) link

Berman really helped 20 year old me from the south who always associated country with authority and conservatism appreciate country again. just picked up a george strait record at an antique store recently!

Heez, Saturday, 10 August 2019 01:39 (nine months ago) link

(unrelated xpost!) and also I was doing a dad visit so no doubt I had some berman-esque thoughts in my mind.

I guess where I stumble is trying to grasp where MAGA-esque chuds get by in that environment. When I am out there I feel absolute awe. I dunno where the gross guns and other stuff comes from.

dell (del), Saturday, 10 August 2019 01:44 (nine months ago) link

Interesting enough, my family is planning a trip to Williamsburg, VA where he was born. I wonder if there's a local record store around there or something.

Piano Mouth, Saturday, 10 August 2019 01:45 (nine months ago) link

Listening to The Arizona Record for the first time in forever and it's inspiring to recognize the leap from, say, "The Wild Palms" to, I dunno, "I Remember Me" or [your favorite song].

j.o.h.n. (john. a resident of chicago.), Saturday, 10 August 2019 04:04 (nine months ago) link

The NY Times obit has been updated with some details about his death (and a statement from his father). For those who are interested.

60... 90... 120 Minute IPA (morrisp), Saturday, 10 August 2019 07:35 (nine months ago) link


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