Solving the problem of evil in the twenty-first century

Rebel Jew

Link to the Song:
Although forever linked with independent rock pioneers, Pavement, David Berman and the Silver Jews remained an important, critically hailed force in rock and roll through the 90’s. Featuring famed singer songwriter Stephen Malkmus and famed poet David Berman, the Silver Jews wrote dense, mysterious, and most importantly sarcastic rock songs. On their first album Starlite Walker, Berman produced one of the band’s most famous and important songs, Rebel Jew, a faux country tune that mocks the feigned religiosity of country musicians. The song begins with Berman’s monotone wail declaring his alleged close relationship with Jesus and he urges the listener to “let him in.”

This is a commentary on the Berman’s oft perceived notion of evangelical Christianity that permeates country rock music. Moving into the rest of the song, Berman replaces the name of Jesus while maintaining the same rhyme scheme and similar lyrical content. He speaks about his affinity for Texas and the very important role that the state plays in his life. This mocks the disingenuous use of invoking images of Jesus in traditional pop music. Finally, Berman arrives at the end of the song and replaces Jesus in the song a final time with a previously unmentioned character named Michele. This is another criticism of the flippancy required to mention Jesus in a song that doesn’t entirely have its intentions set on discussing him. This final detail is Berman’s masterstroke on Rebel Jew. In the process of just one song, Berman has transformed what initially seems like an impassioned cry for religious devotion into a cheap sounding, southern patriotic anthem and then finally into a worthless love song about a girl who was never even mentioned in the rest of the song. Though this is only one interpretation of the song, Berman’s monotone drawl leaves nothing about his intentions clear.


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