Indie rock fans have never been fruit-basket types: They don't welcome outsiders with open arms (that is, unless the newcomers know the genealogy of fellow alternarockers Neutral Milk Hotel). At the first whiff of commercial success, once-loyal acolytes might run their longtime musical heroes out of town. That type of hostility can keep the casual listener from venturing into the fold.
Enter Silkworm, a long-standing trio with all the indie cred a band could want. Its pedigree is flawless. Born in Missoula, Montana, and relocated to Seattle, the threesome (once a quartet) won the independent rock equivalent of the coveted Sundance Audience Prize: The group signed with Matador. From there it's typically either sell out or get out. But Silkworm performed an unexpected end run: After several moderately successful albums, the band left the increasingly mainstream label for the smaller Touch and Go Records, gratifying fans for whom obscurity is the biggest compliment.
While the band may be a well-kept secret, its music is remarkably easy to listen to. The rock licks are fun and frolicky, liable to get heads bobbing and to put smiles on even the most sternly intense faces. The basic guitar/bass/ drums arrangement sits well with purists who disdain bells and whistles, yet the interplay is versatile and skilled. And while references to Fritz Lang and valerian tea will please those who get off on the smart, esoteric sensibilities of unconventional rock lyricists, the core themes of Silkworm's songs -- frustration, growing up, growing up frustrated -- are always accessible and resonant.
The clincher? The band has even got a song to soothe the timid would-be concert-goer: Track four of Silkworm's latest album, Lifestyle,advises listeners to "Treat the New Guy Right."