Poet-Laureate For the Romantically Challenged

by Shawn Ohler, Edmonton Journal, April 22, 1998

Moe Berg isn't surprised to hear many of his fans found his first solo record, Summer's Over, almost unbearably sad.

During his years fronting Toronto power-pop veterans The Pursuit of Happiness, the St. Albert native has become a sort of poet-laureate for the nation's romantically challenged.

But Berg took his lovelorn tales one step further on Summer's Over.

The album, which was prompted and inspired by Berg's solo turn at the 1995 Edmonton Folk Music Festival, laces the singer's usual wit and sarcasm with a real, desperate melancholy.

"Yeah, I've heard that a lot, that people thought the record was really sad," Berg said recently from Winnipeg, in the middle of a solo tour that brings him to the Sidetrack tonight.

"I guess that's good, because it's intentionally sad. It was a pretty black period of my life when I wrote most of that material. I was trying to be as honest as I could."

Berg's happier now, recharged by what he calls "a spiritual rebirth," and says pouring his soul into Summer's Over was a healing thing.

Of course, it was a self-indulgent thing, too, something not lost on both Berg's critics and friends.

"That was a common reaction, that it was really self-indulgent. People who I know, friends of mine, said they needed five listens to finally get through that," Berg said.

"When they first heard it, they thought it was self-indulgent. The second time, it seemed like self- indulgent crap.

"The third time one of the songs started poking out at them.

"The fourth time, they were intrigued.

"The fifth time they liked it.

"And that's great, as long as people put in the time to listen to it.

"A lot of people wouldn't bother. They'd ditch it after the self-indulgent crap stage."

Berg doesn't mind that people found the record self-indulgent.

"I don't think there's any problem with it. I think more artists should do that.

"That's the point," he said.

"There are millions of people who make art for the wrong reasons. Ultimately, art is a public display of self-examination. And if it's a harsh display, like on (Summer's Over), that's what it is."

Not that Summer's Over is entirely bleak. There's a whimsical side to it, too, in its lo-fi, uncomplicated sound, a bluegrass-tinged country shuffle called How Will I Find You In Heaven and a couple of keyboard instrumentals.

One of them, Introducing the Solution, is a throwback to Berg's Edmonton days.

He wrote the synth-heavy song in 1984, in his old apartment.

"That was the last year I lived in Edmonton. I wrote it when I was living on 105th Street and Jasper. It was inspired by the hookers," he said, laughing.

"I had just bought this Roland keyboard, which was one of the hippest synthesizers you could get, and that was the first song I'd ever written on it."

Though fans won't hear Introducing the Solution at the Sidetrack ("As pitifully played as it was on the record, there's no way I could even reproduce that live," Berg says), he will play Summer's Over's guitar-based numbers and whatever TPOH chestnuts fans bark out.

"The show is more fun than the record, I will say that.

"And anyone who wants to hear any Pursuit of Happiness songs, they're welcome to call them out," he said.

"I'll take a shot at anything."

Copyright 1998 Edmonton Journal

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