The Silver Jews - Early Times, 1990-1
Early times, indeed. At this point in time, 1990 seems positively prehistoric, doesn’t it? This time capsule compilation, which collects the out-of-print “Dime Map of the Reef” and Arizona Record releases, takes us back to those long-gone days, when a trio of recent UVA grads (l-r: Stephen Malkmus, David Berman, Bob Nastanovich) hit “Record” on an aged boombox and recorded the first Silver Jews sides. The press release claims they’ve been remastered, but the 14 tracks here remain lo-fi enough to give even the hardiest of Guided By Voices fans pause. But after the fuzz, the hiss, the noise, those Gold Soundz emerge. There’s an almost primal intimacy audible on Early Times, as though we’re eavesdropping on some strange, post-adolescent ritual. The songs don’t seem written as much as conjured up out of boredom, excess energy and murmured hints of the poetic leanings both Berman and Malkmus would explore later. Though the Jews would become mainly a vehicle for Berman’s songwriting, it sounds like an equal partnership here, with Malkmus singing lead on several tunes and Nastanovich pounding out caveman (prehistoric, remember?) beats on … drums? Not sure these are actually drums. Buckets? Phone books? Whatever! Just listen to the woozy, dream-like instrumental, “Bar Scene From Star Wars,” that closes out the comp. These guys had a sound. Aside from being an essential early glimpse of Berman and Malkmus in their pre-fame forms, Early Times is a fun, absorbing ride all on its own, context be damned. Enough so that I’m convinced the trio should get back together with the boombox and make a sequel.
Download “Secret Knowledge of the Backroads”