Being around for 15 years and nine proper albums has its advantages. For instance, you no longer have to deal with expectations. No one’s gonna pressure you into making a record you’re not comfortable with or able to make. No one’s gonna force you into a van and tell you to go play four nights in Jacksonville for beer money. Nope, at this point, you can pretty much do whatever you want and we, the record buying public, have to deal with it. This can be bad. Bands get lazy and their fans get lazier. “Nah, man, the last album was good. It was TOTALLY a return to form.” But, and this is a big but, if both determination and strong moral fiber are present then the freedom of relative obscurity can allow individuals to create something of relevance and, more importantly, consequence. Given this fact, let it be known that Andy Cohen, Michael Dahlquist, and Tim Midgett, the gents of Silkworm, are men of character. The trio, late of Chicago, have put together a fine new record full of passion and inventiveness. They should be saluted for their incorruptibility.
It’ll Be Cool opens with six minutes of straight ahead chug. The Pixies-esque bass line and feedback squalls of “Don’t Look Back” might not seem revelatory on the surface, but there is an aura of indefatigable energy surrounding the proceedings. The sheer repetition reeks of conviction and sincerity. It’s a love song to powerlessness that is both glib (“The beat it had was simple and strong / He knew it was right/It could never go on too long”) and conspiratorial (“He had sold that song to me / Mismatched links in my misery / Wormed its way through my heart / That hit”). But above all else, it is cathartic. It is an announcement of the intention to survive, an intention that is echoed in “Insomnia”, an anthem for the damned. Rather than finish another book, the kick drum and cymbal crashes of “Insomnia” calls the eternally drowsy to battle. This 3 a.m. will be different; tonight they will ride with Julius Caesar to retake the sleeping cities.
Similarly, the heroes of “Penalty Box” survive by living out their reckless dreams in amateur hockey leagues. This track also marks first appearance of the bizarre keyboards of recording member Matt Kadane. On this track, he uses high pitched and high speed runs to conjure an image of a very scary, and possibly evil, zamboni. Kadane’s piano also figures heavily into the boozy carnival-esque weirdness of “Something Hyper”. A departure from the straightforward rock of the first three tracks, the song’s middle section features a tuneful mélange of acoustic guitar and mandolin which segues into delightful lyrics like “I can barely keep my feet on the floor flat / Find the edge of the bed with my shin / And the back of a cat as a map”.
In another pleasant diversion, “Xian Undertaker” boasts a spare vocal melody that plays itself out over piano and acoustic guitar before yielding to the newsboy-barked chorus of “Bulletin: heat wave coming”. The hot coffee scald of the guitar tone on “Shitty Little Yacht” is unbelievably liberating despite lending itself to the chronicle of a piss poor journey: “The food’s been cooked / The wine’s been chilled / The host is at the bottom of the lake”. But despite their troubles, the yacht’s protagonists once again decide to stick it out: “I found beauty where you never would have thought / We could be happy in any old yacht”. Sounding refreshed and in peak form, Silkworm end the album with the insistent piano and rousing guitar riff of “The Operative”, proving once again that what they have proved over the course of the previous six tracks: they are feeling up to the challenge of survival.
// Notes from the Road
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