Music

Silkworm: It'll Be Cool

Jon Goff

Silkworm

It'll Be Cool

Label: Touch and Go
US Release Date: 2004-09-14
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

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.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image