Silver Jews

Starlite Walker

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AllMusic Review by

Starlite Walker is a first for the Silver Jews on many levels. Not only is it the group's first full-length album, it's also the first recorded in a full-fledged studio -- Memphis' 24-track Easley Recordings -- as well as the first collection of songs penned almost entirely by David Berman. The album's lyrical and musical richness comes partly from Berman's retreat to the woods of Oxford, MS in preparation for the record, and partly from the understated, intimate production. As a result, Starlite Walker collects some of the Jews' most diverse and affecting songs. Wry lyrics like "I just got back from a dream attack" from "Trains Across the Sea" and "On the last day of your life/Don't forget to die" from "Advice to the Graduate" let Berman's easygoing charm come to the forefront, while jangly and crunchy guitars, Stephen Malkmus' backing vocals, and Bob Nastanovich's steady drumming punctuate his observations. Though Starlite Walker is a more low-key, reflective affair than the Silver Jews' EPs, the album benefits from it, combining the laid-back experimentalism of the Jews' early work with more sophisticated and expressive songwriting. "Advice to the Graduate" and "New Orleans" turn from humorous to poignant with a simple chord change; "Rebel Jew" draws on the group's affection for country music; and instrumentals like "The Moon Is the Number 18" and "The Silver Pageant" add to the relaxed, homespun feel of the album. Repeated listening just enhances Starlite Walker's warm, off-the-cuff appeal.

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