David Berman's trailer-park Dada lyrics have never sounded more contrived than on Silver Jews' Tanglewood Numbers, the group's first release since 2001's Bright Flight.
In the nearly four years that have passed since the Jews' last stab at ironic Americana in the land of milk and honey, the milk has gone sour. Berman's voice is wrecked as he barrels through ponderous lines like "Where does an animal sleep when the ground is wet?" in "Sometimes a Pony Gets Depressed." His vocals -- which are turned up much louder than the rest of the group -- make his delivery that much harder to bear. And the opening belch, "Where's the paper bag that holds the liquor just in case I feel the need to puke," from "Punks in the Beerlight" hits like a blast of bad breath.
The presence of former Pavement alumni and longtime Silver Jews slummers Stephen Malkmus (guitar) and Bob Nastanovich (drums) doesn't do much to save the songs. Furthermore, one gets the impression that this record is an inside joke after taking a closer look at the liner notes. Paz Lenchantin (Papa M/A Perfect Circle), Duane Denison (the Jesus Lizard) and even Will Oldham grace Tanglewood Numbers. Whether this is some kind of joke or a stoic anti-hipster move is hard to say. Tanglewood Number is not funny but apparently very cool.
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