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Lookout Mountain Lookout Sea

4.3 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Audio CD, June 17, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

2008 release, the sixth album from Silver Jews and their first since Tanglewood Numbers from 2005. All a-sweat and working hard, rumbling with terror and humility like old Johnny Cash, leader David Berman is once again your tour guide into the void, pointing out spots where some dreams died and other candy-colored conceits were conceived.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 17, 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Drag City
  • ASIN: B0015XIE0O
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,476 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
There's something different about this one. Musically, you can kind of tell that it's a real band rather than just a bunch of friends and pickup musicians. This group has been playing together and it shows. The drums play on the beat instead of slouching behind, the bass is locked in solidly, and the guitars and keyboard chug, sizzle and gallop atop that solid platform.

Lyrically, it strikes me as quite different from David Berman's earlier work, though I haven't yet put my finger on exactly what is different about it, other than the two narrative lyrics ("Aloysius, Bluegrass Drummer" and "San Francisco, BC") -- I don't think Berman has written real stories into his songs like these before.

In a sense I miss the slacker voice of the earlier albums, with imagery thrown together in a way that almost appeared random, but was obviously the product of a lot of well-hidden craft. Musically, those songs fitted the lyrics. The band never sounded sloppy, but they never sounded so tight that you doubted their casual attitude towards the music.

But this one is a lot tighter, both musically and lyrically. And while the themes of self-doubt, despair and suicide are still there, they are a little further below the surface, and the suicides ("Candy Jail", "My Pillow is the Threshold" if I'm reading those songs right) are no longer the singer's but those of people he knew. It's really a much more optimistic album than any that came before, including Tanglewood Numbers. It's not cheery, but it seems to offer some solutions, rather than just problems. This is best seen in the songs that bookend the album.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I've always been a sucker for the Silver Jews' more accessible, more countryish songs. Some of my favorites are "Tennessee," "How to Rent A Room," "Black and Brown Blues," and "Random Rules." Well, this new album sounds like it was made just for me. It's so accessible that David Berman has even provided the chords for each of the songs, including a little chart showing where to put your fingers on the guitar neck, so you can play along with them if you'd like.

Cassie Berman is now a full-fledged member of the band, so those who don't like hearing a girl singing with the Silver Jews will have to either get over it or move on. I've always thought that her sweet voice provides the perfect counterpoint to Berman's gravelly baritone. And her bass playing blends right in.

After only three listens, "Suffering Jukebox" is an early favorite. It is classic Berman: a sincere ode to a jukebox that is ignored and neglected. And "Strange Victory, Strange Defeat" begins with the kind of couplet only Berman could write: "Squirrels imported from Connecticut just in time for fall/How much fun is a lot more fun? Not much fun at all." There is a long story-song called "San Francisco B.C." that may at first appear to be following in the footseps of "The Farmer's Hotel," but whereas the other song was slow-moving with impenetrable lyrics, this one is built around a peppy country riff and tells a funny story in which a bad haircut figures prominently. ("It was neatly trimmed but a patch was bare/I knew it wasn't new wave, it was human error.")

I agree with the first reviewer that this is the Jews' most optimistic album yet.
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Format: Audio CD
Silver Jews singer/songwriter David Berman is either one backwards dude or, well, maybe he has it right and we`re all swimming backwards with snow pants on. While your everyday musician seems to be in their best (read: most naive) spirits early in their career (before they become stale or empty or forgotten) and beaten at some point in the middle of their career (before they fall into Greatest Hitsville or find a rare second artistic wind), Berman runs his own route.

After years of releasing great albums that paint him as an overly sophisticated, glass-completely-empty thinker with deep beliefs and emotions, Berman only recently seems to be getting satisfaction from his work, all of which (and I mean just about every song and poem he's written, no foolin') is worth getting to know. The upbeat accompaniments and playful lyrics of 2006's Tanglewood Numbers shot a flag into the indie-rock world's rain-filled skies, exposing a new side of Berman, the forever over-thinking songwriter known for his puzzle piece lyrics, one that would imply that not all of his punchlines are meant to be taken as critiques or, really, complaints.

The lyrical focus here is age and experience. Read up on Berman and you'll find that the man has no doubt already lived a life. That, and he's the rare authentic mix of sophisticate and gutter punk. On one hand, Berman once taught English as a graduate student at U-Mass and has a list of standing offers from book publishers; on the other, he's had his share of substance abuse problems and once took a size 12 boot to the face during a street fight that eventually led to the loss of sight in one eye. While on his first ever tour in 2005 (11 years after his first major release, but that's another story), Berman noticed something strange in the crowd each night.
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