Jesse Jarnow

“sometimes a pony gets depressed” – silver jews

“Sometimes A Pony Gets Depressed” – Silver Jews (download) (buy)
from Tanglewood Numbers (2005)
released by Drag City

(file expires August 21st)

“That guy’s a better songwriter than Bob Dylan,” my friend, an aggressive and renowned contrarian, once said of the Silver Jews’ David Berman. “I bet you didn’t know that, did you?”

“No,” I admitted. “I didn’t.” And, even having been informed, I’m still not sure if I do. Nonetheless, it’s something to consider. The argument is not to take anything away from Dylan, or — for that matter — to even say that Berman is the greatest songwriter of his generation. If it is not about standing on the shoulders of giants and all that (which it might be), then it is at least about how pop audiences have evolved over the years and what they are prepared to accept in a song.

Berman might be a more interesting formal songwriter than Dylan, but an artist is only as exciting as the limits he’s transcending. Again, not to take anything away from Berman, but it’s all about context. “Sometimes A Pony Get Depressed” is in no ways a revolutionary song. But it’s great, and I can see what my friend was getting at: Berman is simply a more modern songwriter, unencumbered by the properties of music grounded in folk and blues.

An argument about David Berman being a better songwriter than Bob Dylan is stupid if one expects to come up with a victor. If one just wants it to use it as a crowbar into a discussion of songwriters’ trickbags then I’ll bite: David Berman is a better songwriter than Bob Dylan.