Monday, October 24, 2005

Sing Me a Story: "The Farmer's Hotel"

The first song that caught my ear from the Silver Jews’ new album, Tanglewood Numbers, was “The Farmer’s Hotel.” Why, I cannot say. I guess in the end we must be who we are. It was the music that got me to begin with—the soaring, singing Steve Malkmus guitar, echoed by an understated, ethereal female voice; the whistling that would be spooky if it weren’t perfect in setting a surreal but folksy mood; the jangly, ghostly piano by my fellow UU and keyboardist to the stars, Tony Crow; and again, the guitar, picking up the whistling and combining all the elements to create a backdrop for David Berman’s story, a newly twisted traditional tale of the stranger who finds himself in the frightening midst of someone else’s freaky “normal.” Is it a ghost story? A provegetarian piece? What’s the significance of the town’s name, “Goshen”? Is it Goshen, CT (that's somewhere near NY, right), or is it the land of Goshen, where the Hebrews lived in Egypt prior to their enslavement? Is Goshen a metaphor for a generic, fundamentalist hicksville? Or for seclusion from the mainstream of the world? Or for religion vs. the secular (you don’t get much more secular than “New York”)? And furthermore, what did he see at the end of the hall?

I don’t know, and I'm good with that. The mystery is what I love about the songs of a poet. You can find as much meaning as you dig for, whether it’s really there or not.

Other favorite story songs: “Butcher Boy” by Lambchop (from the album Nixon), “Honeymoon Suite” by Suzanne Vega (from Nine Objects of Desire), and you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave (midi version!).

Wow, I didn’t realize the SJ were mainstream enough to have a page on!


  • David Berman's first book of poetry is really good. Do you have Actual Air?

    By Blogger The Man Who Couldn't Blog, at 2:16 PM  

  • I've read excerpts that I've really liked. I need to buy the book. I WOULD buy it, but I spent all my money on that novel you recommended (which, absurdly, ain't here yet). Berman's poetry reads like his songs, esp. the songs from the album American Water.

    By Blogger ashley from alphabet, at 2:22 PM  

  • farmers hotel in goshen, ny.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:49 PM  

  • It might be Goshen, CT. I dated a girl from there and she was a fucking animal!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:37 PM  

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