Seems like everywhere I go, everybody wants to know: how'd someone like me "...get so lucky, you little jerk?" Well, the questions of these idiots are really quite inconvenient, especially when I'm trying to forget that luck had anything to do with it. It was all hard work. And clean living. NOW GET ME A DRINK!
— "Good Luck Now"
Geoff Berner (born 26 November 1971) is a Jewish-Canadian Singer Songwriter on the accordion. The self-styled "Avenging Angel of Klezmer", he has made it his life's mission to bring traditional Jewish klezmer music "kicking and screaming" back into the bars of the world. With whiskey in one hand and Estella in the other, his travels has taken him all over the world, having gained a international cult following due to his insightful humor and politically and ideologically inflammatory lyrics.Originally trained on the piano, Berner picked up the accordion on a whim when it was suggested to him, and went on to form the eclectic punk band Terror of Tiny Town. Berner's political views occasionally appeared in that group's material; eventually, Terror of Tiny Town became the victim of financial troubles and was forced to disband. Berner released his first solo recording in 2000, an EP containing some re-recordings of Terror of Tiny Town material, and a studio album in the same style was released in 2003.Not long after, Berner shifted his attention to klezmer and was determined to aid in restoring the dying music style to its former glory, if not further. He studied under the Romanian masters of the craft (where he nearly died from alcohol poisoning, as chronicled in "Song Written in a Romanian Hospital") and released his first klezmer album, Whiskey Rabbi, in 2005. This album would be the first in a trilogy of klezmer albums.He has served as a support act for Kaizers Orchestra on several occasions, and was in fact one of the first people to ever witness a live performance by them, as he had been deported to Norway for a short time in 2000. Has written an instructional booklet on how to be an accordion player.
We Shall Not Flag or Fail, We Shall Go On to the End (2003)
Live in Oslo (2004)
Whiskey Rabbi (2005)
The Wedding Dance of the Widow Bride (2007)
Klezmer Mongrels (2008)
Victory Party (2011)
Tropes associated with Geoff Berner:
Album Title Drop: "Widow Bride". Not only that, three more songs on the album have the word "bride" in the title.
Audience Participation Song: Plenty of the songs in his repertoire, perhaps most notably "Daloy Polizei", which requires that the audience shout "FUCK THE POLICE!" at the top of their lungs.
Author Appeal: Many, many, MANY songs about, or referencing, whiskey.
Body Horror: Though an instrumental, "A Blimp Made of Human Skin".
Bowdlerize: A 2012 live performance of "Daloy Polizei" had Berner replace the all-important swear-word of the chorus, ending up with... "fuddle duddle the police." But still, considering the song's subject matter it's a miracle it was even aired at all.
Call-and-Response Song: "Rabbi Berner Finally Reveals His True Religious Agenda". (Are you ready? YES WE'RE READY!)
Car Song: Averted; "Songs about cars and angels and the rain" are just some of the things Berner claims promote boredom in "The True Enemy".
Careful With That Axe / Harsh Vocals: A whole lot, particularly live. And his voice lends itself more to this purpose as the years go by, and the whiskey bottles are emptied. A particularly nasty shock for those who went from We Shall Not Flag or Fail... to Whiskey Rabbi. For a specific song example, there's "Queen Victoria".
Cluster F-Bomb: Mild example, but the coda to "Lucky Goddamn Jew" becomes this.
Has recorded one for a majority of his albums (the exception being Whiskey Rabbi), by artists such as Leonard Cohen and Slutarded. In concert, he covered American singer-songwriter Carmaig de Forest constantly for several years (even recording his song "In the Year 2020" for his first album), but his focus has since shifted to Kris Demeanor (whose song "One Shoe" he recorded for Klezmer Mongrels).
Conversely, Berner has himself been covered: the Be Good Tanyas' version of "Light Enough to Travel" became a hit for them in Canada.
Darker and Edgier: Whiskey Rabbi. Although his lyrics were darkly humorous from the very beginning of his career, this was the first time the instrumentation sounded the part.
And The Wedding Dance of the Widow Bride goes even further.
Deadpan Snarker: So deadpan you'd think the guy didn't even intend for it to be a joke.
Double Entendre: "Fukher". He even explains in the song that it means "fan" in Yiddish, but as the song progresses, the increasingly suggestive contexts in which he uses it has us all wondering...
This next verse is just / a list of bars that I have drunken / some are dead and some are living / in my life I've loved them all
Lullaby: "That's What Keeps the Rent Down, Baby": an impoverished parental figure explains to their child that they should be grateful for all the terrible things (murder, prostitutes, thievery, etc.) that goes in in their neighborhood, as that's what keeps the rent down. Baby.
Lyrical Dissonance: A favorite of Berner's. There's "Laughing Jackie the Pimp", being a children's song about an abusive pimp, and his chipper delivery of the "Official Theme for the 2010 Vancouver / Whistler Olympic Games" (described below).
Obsession Song: "Iron Grey", whose protagonist is a wanted criminal deeply in love with a spot welder.
Ode to Intoxication: "The Way That Girl Drinks Beer" is basically the Gospel of Intoxication. They don't call him the "Whiskey Rabbi" for nothin'.
One-Man Band: When touring without his klezmer backing band, which is a majority of the time.
Rearrange the Song: "Volcano God" went from a sparsely-embellished acoustic accordion version to a full-fledged klezmer trio version from his first album to his second.
Also, "The Rich Are Going to Move to the High Ground", a rather upbeat song about social standings (originally a free download from his official website) was rerecorded as a stark and sparse song in a completely different key on Klezmer Mongrels.
Refuge in Audacity: His entire act, but most notably his "Official Theme for the 2010 Vancouver / Whistler Olympic Games", in which he accuses the Olympic committee of shutting down departments investigating children's deaths to pay for the event.
Also made remarks about Volkswagen and their ties to Nazi Germany at an event which they sponsored.
Rule of Three: His "Klezmer Trilogy": Whiskey Rabbi, The Wedding Dance of the Widow Bride, and Klezmer Mongrels. Furthermore, all three albums contain a song with the word "luck" in their title. Berner has confirmed "Good Luck Now" to be a sequel to "Lucky Goddamn Jew"; the third, "Luck in Exile" appears to share no connection with the others besides the title.
Sampling: "Public Relations", specifically the Terror of Tiny Town version, incorporates snippets of Richard E. Grant's dialogue from How to Get Ahead in Advertising, a British black comedy film. The film deals with the same subject as the song; namely, the apparently amoral and deceptive advertising industry.
Screw the War, We're Partying: "The Victory Party", although technically it's a post-war party. The way to the Victory Party is crowded with horrors.
Sequel Song: As mentioned before, "Good Luck Now" is a sequel to "Lucky Goddamn Jew".
Step Up to the Microphone: Lead vocal duties are handed to Diona Davies, usually Berner's violinist, for "Drunk All Day" and "Jail". She also sings "In Spite of Ourselves" (a cover of the John Prine song recorded for the Live in Oslo album) as a duet with Berner.
Trademark Favorite Drink: Whiskey. He has written more songs about, or containing references to the stuff, than can be counted on both hands. The subject of the song "The Whiskey" (which may or may not be autobiographical) is a person whose very conception he owes to whiskey.