Silkworm

Lifestyle
(Touch and Go)

In the 1980s, American indie rock resembled an archipelago of separate, distinct islands, the inhabitants of which were left alone to formulate their own sounds. These days, through popular co-opting and rigid codification from within, the indie scene resembles a continent of Pangean proportions.

But thank heaven, after 14 years Silkworm is still out there, floating on its atoll, talking on a coconut phone, and trading in ragged, confessional, truly independent rock of the highest order.

On Lifestyle,the band's eighth record and second for indie stalwart Touch and Go, guitarist Andy Cohen plays the kind of choppy chords and jagged, careening solos that invite favorable comparisons to units as diverse as Crazy Horse and Mission of Burma, while bassist Tim Midgett and drummer Michael Dahlquist respond with tight, lean rhythms that alternate between mellow and menacing.

Cohen and crew have always given in to a good hook, and here they cave early with "Treat the New Guy Right," a head-bobbing sing-along that will inspire fist pumping in the composure-challenged, despite its perplexing chorus: "When you run into the night/ Ain't you ever been alone in your life/ Motörhead is coming for you/ You gotta treat the new guy right."

"Plain," a reflection on the band's Missoula, Mont., roots, sounds like an early '70s Rolling Stones outtake (the Faces' "Ooh La La" is covered here) before Cohen's guitar goes apoplectic halfway through. "You're stuck with me, stuck with this," someone sings. (All three members take turns on the mike.)

"Yr Web," an apology to a dumped lover, rides an epic opening chord progression and cursory lyrics to a euphoric instrumental workout. It's merely a warm-up for "That's Entertainment," in which Cohen really lets his chops fly, engaging in some raging roller-coaster fretwork that employs a monster tone. When someone sings, "The affair was good/ But it wasn't worth the money/ Don't you cry/ I earn a lot now," we realize the charm and frustration of Silkworm's lyrical approach; listening to Lifestyle is intimate yet completely foreign, like reading love letters from a dumpster.

"Around the Outline" and "Dead Air" are linear guitar-rock at its finest, with Cohen's slashing drones demonstrating why he's an important link to Amerindie's '80s renaissance. Here's hoping Silkworm is marooned on its island for another 14 years.

 
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