American Water (album)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
American Water
American water.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 20, 1998
RecordedRare Book Room, Brooklyn
LabelDrag City
Silver Jews chronology
The Natural Bridge
American Water
Bright Flight
Professional ratings
Review scores
The Austin Chronicle[4]
The Guardian[5]
The List[6]
Rolling Stone[10]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[11]

American Water is the third studio album by indie rock group Silver Jews. Released in 1998 as an LP and CD on Drag City (DC149) in America and Domino (WIG56) in Europe, American Water was recorded at The Rare Book Room in Brooklyn and mastered at Abbey Road Studios. The album features musicians Tim Barnes, David Berman, Mike Fellows, Stephen Malkmus, Chris Stroffolino, and artwork by Chris Kysor.


Berman was struggling with drug addiction during the recording of American Water. Lyrically, this is expressed in a sense of solidarity with the downtrodden.[13] He described the album's sessions saying "I was taking a lot of drugs at that time. And there were a lot of drugs in the studio. And all these things that would have horrified indie rock people, that I would never want them to know. I wanted to make a record that wasn't some terrible, big, painful experience. I wanted to make records like other people make records, where you're having fun when you're doing it."[14]

American Water is a continuation from their previous album The Natural Bridge, taking on the themes, accepting them and then questioning them altogether. Berman explained this by saying "The Natural Bridge is me finding out that random rules and I can't handle it... And then in American Water I'm trying to re-say it again, to someone else, after having accepted it. And now I question later on whether things were random at all."[14]

According to a 1998 article in online zine Addicted to Noise, the working title for this album was The Late, Great Silver Jews — a reference to the similarly titled 1972 album by Townes Van Zandt. Among the songs recorded for the album, but omitted from the final product, were "Self-Ignition" (released as a B-side on the "Send in the Clouds" single) and "Police Conversation, 1783", which was never released.[15]

On January 31, 2009, when Silver Jews played their last show ever inside Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, Tennessee, the final song they performed was the album's second track, "Smith & Jones Forever".

Critical reception[edit]


Publication Accolade Rank Ref.
Pitchfork The 50 Best Albums of 1998 12 [1]
Pitchfork The Top 200 Tracks of the 1990s ("Random Rules") 103 [16]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by David Berman, except where noted.

1."Random Rules" 4:00
2."Smith & Jones Forever" 3:20
3."Night Society" 2:19
4."Federal Dust"4:03
5."People" 4:45
6."Blue Arrangements"
  • Berman
  • Malkmus
7."We Are Real" 4:24
8."Send in the Clouds" 5:26
9."Like Like the the the Death" 4:00
10."Buckingham Rabbit" 4:58
11."Honk If You're Lonely"2:49
12."The Wild Kindness" 3:54
Total length:47:53


The American Water Band

  • David Berman - lead vocals, guitar
  • Stephen Malkmus - guitar, backing vocals, co-lead vocals on "Federal Dust" and "Blue Arrangements"
  • Mike Fellows - bass
  • Tim Barnes - drums, percussion
  • Chris Stroffolino - trumpet on "Random Rules", keyboards on "Random Rules", "We Are Real", "Like like the the the Death", and "The Wild Kindness", piano on "Send in the Clouds" and "Buckingham Rabbit"

Additional Personnel

  • Chris Kysor - cover art
  • Nicolas Vernhes - production


  1. ^ a b "The 50 Best Albums of 1998". Pitchfork. February 12, 2018. p. 4. Retrieved February 8, 2019.
  2. ^ Hyden, Steven (June 26, 2019). "Indie Hero David Berman Disappeared For A Decade — And Now He's Back". Uproxx. Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  3. ^ Phares, Heather. "American Water – Silver Jews". AllMusic. Retrieved October 15, 2017.
  4. ^ Freeman, Doug (September 19, 2008). "Suffering Jukebox: A Silver Jews primer". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved December 23, 2018.
  5. ^ O'Reilly, John (December 11, 1998). "Silver Jews: American Water (Domino Records)". The Guardian.
  6. ^ Whitelaw, Paul (October 8, 1998). "Silver Jews: American Water (Domino)". The List (344): 50. Retrieved October 15, 2017.
  7. ^ Male, Andrew (November 2018). "Silver Jews: American Water". Mojo (300): 103.
  8. ^ Goldsmith, Mike (October 29, 1998). "Silver Jews – American Water". NME. Archived from the original on August 17, 2000. Retrieved October 15, 2017.
  9. ^ Powell, Mike (July 30, 2017). "Silver Jews: American Water". Pitchfork. Retrieved October 15, 2017.
  10. ^ Healy, Mark (October 20, 1998). "Silver Jews: American Water". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on January 29, 2008. Retrieved October 15, 2017.
  11. ^ Sheffield, Rob (2004). "Silver Jews". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. p. 735. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  12. ^ Wolk, Douglas (March 2008). "Discography: Stephen Malkmus". Spin. 24 (3): 82. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  13. ^ "Silver Jews' 'American Water' Turns 20". 19 October 2018.
  14. ^ a b Malitz, David (June 27, 2008). "Post Rock Podcast: David Berman of Silver Jews, Part 3". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  15. ^ Nelson, Chris. "The Corduroy Suit - a Silver Jews homepage". Archived from the original on February 8, 2012. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
  16. ^ "The Top 200 Tracks of the 1990s: 150-101". Pitchfork. August 31, 2010. Retrieved February 8, 2019.