Alissa Quart at the NYRB:
In the poetry and the albums, Berman’s poetic voice or his plaintive baritone insists that another truth is out there, a source of black humor: there were no jobs to be had, we had graduated into a recession, we would eternally be unpaid interns; if we were female, we faced endless harassment—without the language to describe, let alone protest, it; and many vulnerable people in our midst were overdoing it on anti-depressants, Ritalin, or Jim Beam. Berman struggled with it all: crack and Fentanyl and serious depression. “In 1984,” he wrote in one of his most memorable lyrics, “I was hospitalized for approaching perfection.” But he seemed to succeed in making his personal demons not an aberration, but something woven into and speaking for the experience of a generation.
His songs for Silver Jews had as their underpinning this sour, low-stakes refusal of the smugness and falsehoods around us, many which were political in nature. It was a pickled rejection of the upbeat mainstream.