Lookout punks, lookout beerlight
Though chief semite David Berman sounds less electrified—and more gentrified—than usual on Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea, he’s the rare songwriter who’s better for it. Relying on elliptical truisms (“What is Not But Could Be If”), pleasingly surreal non-rhymes (“peppermint bars” and ”marshmallow walls” on “Candy Jail”), and sad phrases twisted gently (“she went her way, and I went his,” on “San Francisco B.C.”), Berman serves hooks with the vague ghosts of country twang. Delivering in a droll drawl, he plays the wryly omniscient narrator, building small stories. “True love doesn’t come around any more than fate allows on a Monday in Fort Lauderdale,” he declares on “Candy Jail”—probably a fair assessment. The album brims with shaggy-dog tales (“Aloysius, Bluegrass Drummer”), highly ponderable phrases, and the occasional glorious bridge (“Strange Victory, Strange Defeat”). As a vehicle for Berman’s words, just as much as a follow-up to his 1999 poetry collection Actual Air would be, Lookout Mountain is a volume to be consumed in one’s own time, filed on the shelf, and eventually taught in seminars as an example of form and poise.