Obviously Bern is not a man who holds back. And while his smart, sarcastic lyrics, coupled with his nasally vocals and playful harmonica, bring the inevitable comparisons to Bob Dylan, Fleeting Days is full of hook-laden pop tunes that should have more than one person mentioning Bern and Armed Forces-era Elvis Costello in the same breath.
"Is that what's going to happen with this record?" asks a resigned Bern, who is backed on Days by a band he calls the International Jewish Banking Conspiracy. "Well, I'll just run through all the comparisons, and finally there won't be anybody left -- and I'll be about 70."
Dominated by songs about relationships, Days is a departure from Bern's overtly political 2002 release, The Swastika EP.
"After getting that stuff out, it made me free to do this now," he says. "I'll come back to that, but right now it's just like, I've got some pop songs here, and I want to get some of those out, too. I think, in a way, The Swastika EP allowed me to make this one. If I hadn't put [it] out, I would have felt some necessity to cover some of that ground on this album."
And he covers it brilliantly on The Swastika EP. "Talkin' Al Kida Blues" addresses the McCarthy-like state of suspicion the Bush administration has established in this country. About a poor soul in Cleveland named Al Kida, the song -- with lines like, "I had to turn in my own mom because, you know what they say, unpaid parking tickets aids terrorism" -- is as hilarious as it is scathing.
The E.P. also examines Bern's Jewish heritage with the rockabilly "My Little Swastika," where he reclaims the swastika from the Nazis much like gays took back the pink triangle. And in the angry and beautiful "Lithuania," he tells the story of his parents, who met in Auschwitz.
Though his last name is Bernstein, Bern didn't gentrify his name in hopes of more commercial viability. If anything, it was just the opposite.
"I didn't want to commercialize the name Bernstein," he says. "For me, I ruined the name Dan Bern in a way. I named my first record that, and that name became the name of a thing. The name Bernstein has a lot of significance to me. I just thought that whatever thing I had done to the name Dan Bern, I didn't want to do that to the name Bernstein. I read once where Japanese painters of a certain period would routinely change their name every few years, and I understand that. I think it would be great that if, when we turned 18, we would get to choose a name for ourselves."
"Mad Skillz With a Z, and 'With a Z' is part of the name. I might just go with that for a while."
"Punk" style like this seems like it is the polar opposite of punk. Bradford Cox…
They're kind of starting to look like a joke of themselves. Song's good though.
All 80s movies want you...
Their show with Chris, Lord about 3 years at the Unicorn was the best.
I am a connoisseur of this real soul music like the comment above I'm glad…