Beer and Pavement

Jerusalem & the Starbaskets – Dost

Posted in Records by SM on June 24, 2011

Punk rock died when the first kid said, “Punk’s not dead. Punk’s not dead!”

And so warbled Silver Jew David Berman, the Nashville poet whose career bridged the lo-fi nineties with the nineties. His lament perfectly describes the mess that is Jerusalem & the Starbaskets’ Dost.

When I say “mess” I mean it in the most flattering terms. Just as punk rock and traditional country can get a bit sloppy, Dost turns a disaster into something comforting and real. While the songwriting and performances are tight, the vocals and production keep a drunk slob happy.

Mixed into the set of songs, the listener finds perfect examples of garage rock and whiskey tunes, but don’t overlook the bits of Pavement or even touches of Nirvana scattered throughout.

In fact, my first listen made me wonder how things would have been different had Kurt Cobain grown up in Memphis instead of the Pacific Northwest. For one, he would have chosen whiskey over heroin and for two, he would have likely written sad songs as opposed to the angry material he did record. Nirvana could have easily recorded a record very much like Dost had Cobain been from Tennessee and not Washington.

At least two reviews I’ve read on Dost claim that the songs would be better had they received slicker treatment in the studio. The melodies are convoluted by feedback and tape hiss. The vocals are hard to make out with all the echo and overdubs. Some of the subtleties in the instruments employed are hard to pick out due to a messy recording process. Etc.

Apparently these same reviewers hate Guided By Voices and Sebadoh or any number of bands lumped under the lo-fi identifier journalists and bloggers lazily toss around. Dost maintains a certain charm and authenticity with this record’s (under)production. Some hate it, but it lends to the experience of Jerusalem’s material, especially live. One cannot possibly understand how a band translates live if a record is overproduced from studio slickness and autotune abuse.

Where Dost goes right – overcoming whoever’s hangups over production – is in songcraft and delivery. Both sides of the record open with pleasant guitar interludes before launching into garage-based rockers. Those tracks are followed by a mix of country drunkeness and mid-tempo indie rock.  All songs fit together without trying too hard to jump genres. The Jerusalem aesthetic holds true throughout.

Singer/guitarist Jeremy Freeze comes from Memphis, bringing with him that Memphis warble, much like Berman does on the lyrics above from the song “Tennessee.” However, Freeze has a piece of Columbia in him as well as our own Kim Sherman sits behind the kit keeping his train on the tracks.

There are electronic flourishes subtly placed on various tracks, but they don’t take over the production, leaving the listener a document that remains true to a Jerusalem live show. And this is where the deliver part comes in. Freeze is a gifted and loose guitarist that moves effortlessly between genres, tempos, and sonics. Sherman is as steady a drummer as one would hope. It’s the backbeat of this band and its obvious connection to post-punk country and independently-created garage rock that hold together the beautiful sloppiness within. Or something like that.

Honestly, I’ve probably overwritten this review. I realized this as I discovered the phrase “no thinking all feeling” on the record sleeve, recognizing that this is the essence of Dost and it should be seen as so. Consider this record a perfect document of Columbia in the summer and put it on repeat.

Highlights for me included “Chocolate Covered Every Berry” (below), “First Cigarette in the Rain”, and “Fuck a Parade” among others. Look for Dost in your local record store or buy it here.

This review was written for The Collective but will publish there tomorrow. Consider this a bonus for reading this blog, but click over to the other sometime tomorrow and possibly Sunday as I have more to say about other things then.

4 Responses

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  1. Steve said, on June 24, 2011 at 9:06 am

    I just had a listen to the album. I felt that the production was the major part of the album’s charm, and kind of made it what it was, rather than detracting from it. Messy alt.rock with slick production just sounds creepy, anyway. While I wasn’t blown away, I think I’ll probably give it another listen as I can imagine it growing on me.

    • builderofcoalitions said, on June 24, 2011 at 9:18 am

      Agreed. As far as being blown away, I don’t know that I was, but I know that I like this record. I’ve also seen them play a few times and am friends/an acquaintance with one of the members. I enjoy local bands for different reasons, but this one is particularly good.

  2. Carrie the Destroyer said, on June 27, 2011 at 4:20 am

    Yeah, I’ve listened a few times since I got it about a Month and half ago. It’s more alt-country than Battle of the Orchids, which I liked for a lot of the strong psyche-inspired songs it had. Having said that, I still enjoy the album quite a bit, though I haven’t revisited it enough times to explore what, exactly, I like about it.

  3. […] thrilling set at one of the fest’s showcases following a year where the band found some well-deserved acclaim for their album, Dost. In other words, Kim is a big part of the best thing that happens in Middle […]

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