Everything So Democratic and Cool

Time is fraught with disappointment and chaos. Events fall into place in an order that will drive you certifiably batshit if you attempt to analyze it. Case in point: I evidently started exchanging ideas about a Silver Jews music video with David Berman right around the time that he started souring on the notion of making music.

In the late spring of 2008, following the recording of Lookout Mountain Lookout Sea, David and I discussed the prospect of a video for the album’s leadoff track What Is Not But Could Be If. Encouraged by our dialogue, I drafted a rough treatment while the band toured Europe (not to be confused with the 2006 tour documented in the underrated Michael Tully film Silver Jew) but, by the time they returned, it became clear interest was waning. He described the collaborative method that he and Brent Stewart used to create the videos for How Can I Love You If You Won’t Lie Down and Sleeping is the Only Love: David would create a list of locations and props, they’d shoot scenes involving those locations and props, Stewart would then edit the video and submit to David for final approval. It was a simple, effective workflow and created an oddly warm, almost home movie aesthetic that I’ve finally come to realize is subversively profound. I was game to give it a shot but David really didn’t have the desire to establish a collaborative relationship from scratch, not to mention the twin facts that the band was preparing for the American leg of their tour and my wife and I were packing all our belongings and preparing for a move to Austin.

Several months later, just before what would become the Joo’s final show at the Cumberland Caverns in Tennessee, it became clear his attention had drifted to things that had nothing to do with music. On January 22, 2009, he made an announcement on the Drag City message boards that he was retiring from music. What shocked pretty much everyone, indie rock fan and political junkie alike, was the reason: he felt a need to spend his time actively working against his father, Richard Berman, a Washington lobbyist who specializes in setting up advocacy non-profit groups to advance the interests of processed food and booze industries and union-busting corporations. That’s right, a full-on Shakespearean/”Empire Strikes Back”/insert-cliche-here father vs. son throwdown. To that end, David’s currently working on a documentary about his notorious dad and recently spoke at NYU’s Open City Summer Workshop about our current propaganda state, one in which the elder Berman is a key player. And while I have little doubt we could’ve made a superb music video, I concede that events continue to fall into place that require some serious attention. Like I said, time (or maybe times) is (are) fraught with disappointment and chaos.

3 thoughts on “Everything So Democratic and Cool

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