Touch And Go
By: Eric G.
It’s easy to overlook Silkworm if you’re not paying attention these days- not because of any musical digressions but simply because its method of expression has become more subtle over the years. When Silkworm first started making waves with L’ajre in 1992 the guitars blasted in semi-metal charges and the vocals warbled desperately above the shrill raucousness of a thick but biting rhythm section. The rage slowly evolved into complicated emotions that didn’t always fit the ‘loud fast rules’ philosophy of fringe, Northwestern punk. Who would have thought that underneath all the noise rested a versatile rock and roll band capable of quiet harmonies, bluesy rock, and folk stories? (Not anyone that bought In The West, I can assure you).
Lifestyle is the logical extension of the band’s 1998 masterpiece, Blueblood. The band has always emphasized emotion over style, and now its talents have caught up to its ideas. The core of its paradoxically bottom-heavy yet piercing sound is still evident- just less pronounced, especially with acoustic guitars, pianos, and female back-up singers in the dynamic. Silkworm is all about its songs- take them or leave them. There’s no scene to cling to- nothing obvious to latch onto. The songs may take several listens to sink in, but they’re worth the effort. Arcane references aside, Silkworm’s lyrics stem from simple emotional truths, and Andy Cohen and Tim Midgett take turns telling their tales of resignation and basic human interaction with flawed but endearing voices.
“Contempt” opens the record, and it’s one of Cohen’s finest songs to date. Its wistful tone masks the real derisiveness at hand, but it’s ambiguous enough to seem harmless on the surface: “Do you like my thighs and my feet?/oh yes my dear/you’re heavenly/you’re the finest girl to ever visit Capri.” Midgett is more direct in “Plain” as he confronts getting older: “Time’s passed/I’m becoming a man/or so says the clock that describes who I am/might not have changed enough/to meet any new needs/might have changed too much to do what I used to/but you’re stuck with me.” A cover of The Faces’ classic “Ooh La La” lightens things up a bit, and the album ends on a sentimental note with “Bones”: “The bones you’re built on are beautiful off white/the bones you’re built on carry you all right/and you shouldn’t care who knows it now.”
Listening to a Silkworm record is like sitting down for a story from some weathered veterans of the road. Lifestyle is a subdued and introspective record by three guys who have spent the better part of their adult lives playing in a band and touring. ‘Maturity’ is an awful word when it’s attributed to music, but it applies to Silkworm now both musically and personally. I mean, guitarist Andy Cohen juggles law school with playing in Silkworm. The stars that fill the eyes of any band when it starts making music have faded; there are no delusions of grandeur here. Silkworm isn’t trying to be the next big thing. It’s just a band that makes consistently absorbing and engaging records, and Lifestyle is no exception. It might just be the band’s best record yet.