Touch and Go
ALL WAS LOST from day one--that is, the best indie rock was always half in love with the easeful past and simultaneously contemptuous of its dinosaur seniors. Montana-born Seattle band Silkworm spent the last decade emitting beautiful bleats about always forgetting and then belatedly re-remembering not to expect too much from life. Like their biggest fan and early-Nineties Matador-mate Steve Malkmus, they've chased a tight formalism that's always given them the shake, and then scoffed that they never wanted it anyway. It's all for the best, though. Their new, Albini-addled Lifestyle finds Tim Midgett, Andy Cohen, and Mike Dahlquist still pinned and jocularly wriggling between obscurity and small-room heroics. And still respectably pissed off, grinning and coughing through another aftershock of that ol' rockin' pneumonia.
The record quakes with the effrontery of everyday alienation. When Midgett howls, "My sleep relies on valerian tea/And these suh-lave wages I'm accumulatin'," it somehow seems epic, with Midgett and Cohen winding low string riffs quick and tight like a kid's fingertip tourniquet. Pricky hooks snag threads of nostalgia in "Yr Web," the disc's breakout rocker, a sexy-sweet reverie for a decade-discarded love. And "Contempt" is a hilariously Ronsonian Eurail pass to Godard's imagined Riviera, complete with bitchy sobs about tourists and townies and amorous abuses on Italy's photogenic coast. The chunked-out lesson is that raw nerve can sure get you by day to day, but to escape the Now, you need a life raft of inflated memory or the beneficence of an exotic intercessor--in "That's Entertainment," Cohen deduces, "I know you're for me/You're for me/You're foreign!" And if Lifestyle's fantasies of otherness feel xenophobic at best, remember, indie rock was always more about staring at your shoes than walking in anyone else's. The indie credo: Xenophobia (-philia?) is A-okay when it's a metaphor for the dislocated self (see "alone like a Wandering Jew" in "Treat the New Guy Right," and "I am a slave" in "Slave Wages"). Ultimately it's just so much prankish, halfhearted groping toward somewhere other than here. On "Roots," Midgett even sings, "There's a Puerto Rican in this bar/She's thinking about San Juan/If I could, I'd wave a wand/And send her home." Hey, so might Pat Buchanan, but for our shadowboxing, apolitical navel-gazer, this could actually be the most generous offer imaginable--helping somebody capture the dream of an idyllic home that never really was.