Silkworm — In The West (24 Jan., 2020)
⇓ Limited Edition, Reissue, 2 × Vinyl, 12″, 45 RPM
Location: Seattle, WA
Recording date: March 22, 1993 ~ March 25, 1993
■ CRC, Chicago, IL
■ Hell’s Gate, Chicago, IL
Album release: Jan 25, 1994/Jan. 24, 2020
Record Label: C/Z Records/Comedy Minus One
01 Garden City Blues 4:13
02 Dust My Broom 2:40
03 Into the Woods 3:28
04 Punch Drunk Five 2:48
05 Raised By Tigers 5:15
06 Incanduce 3:26
07 Enough Is Enough 8:13
08 Parsons 3:45
09 Dremate 5:48
10 Pilot 4:18
11 In the Bleak Midwinter
12 Incaduce California
13 Halloween (Live at Lounge Ax)
⇓ Andy Cohen — Guitar, Vocals
⇓ Michael Dahlquist — Drums, Vocals
⇓ Tim Midgett — Bass, Vocals
⇓ Joel RL Phelps — Guitar, Vocals
⇓ Mastered at: Chicago Mastering Service
⇓ Engineered at: Electrical Audio
⇓ Engineer [Remixed]: Steve Albini
⇓ Remastered: Matthew Barnhart
⇓ Robert Johnson: Composer
⇓ John Loder: Mastering
⇓ “Authentic yet often ineffable greatness that would define Silkworm’s next 11 years of activity, the reissue of In The West is a grand corrective gesture with no expiration date.” — Andrew Earles
⇓ This definitive reissue of Silkworm’s second album In the West (cmo038) marks its first appearance on vinyl.
⇓ It has been remixed from the original 2″ tape at Electrical Audio in Chicago with Steve Albini, who also engineered the original recording in 1993.
⇓ It was remastered with Matthew Barnhart at Chicago Mastering Service.
⇓ The revamped cover art is courtesy longtime fellow traveler Mike Hoffman, Jr. Mike repurposed some elements from the original art by Adrian VanEgmond and otherwise operated in the spirit of the original packaging.
⇓ Everything visual was put together as usual by the band and David Babbitt.
⇓ Limited to 1,500 copies worldwide.
In addition to the album In The West, supplemental material for this release includes:
⇓ A full~color insert with new liner notes by Silkworm’s Tim Midyett.
⇓ Single~only tracks “Incanduce California” and “In The Bleak Midwinter” plus a live version of The Dream Syndicate’s “Halloween” recorded at Chicago’s Lounge Ax in 1994 join the full album on the package’s enclosed compact disc.
⇓ Six previously unheard renditions of songs from In The West recorded direct to DAT in 1991 at Avast! Recording Company in Seattle. Download only.
⇓ Six previously unheard live recordings of songs from In The West provided by Tim Cook. Download only.
⇓ A full Silkworm quartet set from March 1993, recorded at Lounge Ax and made up almost entirely of songs off In The West. Download only.
by Sam Hockley~Smith | JUNE 4 2019 | Score: 8.1
■ Though the Seattle band would produce more focused efforts, In the West is a fascinating document of nascent indie rock that sounds revelatory 25 years later.
■ The same year that the Missoula~born, Seattle~based band Silkworm released their In the West, Kurt Cobain killed himself, ending an entire phase of rock music as we understood it. 1994 was an inflection point for alternative rock: Soundgarden released Superunknown. Weezer released The Blue Album. Hole’s Live Through This came out, as did Green Day’s Dookie and Pavement’s Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. Silkworm’s album, despite being produced by Steve Albini, who finished In Utero for Nirvana the previous year, was lost in the shuffle. Much of that has to do with Silkworm’s sound, which gestured at popular rock music of the time, but used the form to create weird songs that sounded like they were scrawled on a napkin just before last call in a dive bar. Guitarist and vocalist Joel Phelps would soon leave the band, but In the West provided a blueprint for Silkworm’s entire catalog: discursive songs that devolved into twirls of feedback, mantra~like lyrics about escaping life, drinking, lost love, and feeling uncomfortable in your skin.
■ Though Silkworm would later produce more focused efforts — 1996’s Firewater chief among them — In the West is a fascinating document of nascent indie rock that sounds revelatory 25 years later. In Silkworm’s world, loneliness is inevitable, happiness deserves suspicion, and nostalgia is extremely dangerous. “This is the place that I miss the most, but this town is full of ghosts and I always feel like I am inside the throat of the devil here,” bassist Tim Midyett sings on “Garden City Blues,” the first words on the first song.
■ One of Silkworm’s great tricks was that they managed to make overwhelming depression sound nimble. In the West is a heavy listen, but there is a deadpan quality to some of Phelps’ starkest declarations. There’s a nearly audible smirk in lyrics like, “Go into the woods and live with the bears/That way you can kill someone and nobody cares/And when we’ve had enough then it’s time to ascend to heaven.” There is no place for delusion in Silkworm’s world of hard~won epiphanies, and wherever there is clarity, there can be humor.
■ The band keeps the emotions as messy around the edges as the arrangements. The volatility kept them unpredictable, which means that when Phelps erupts into a brief gut~wrenching scream midway through album centerpiece “Raised By Tigers,” it is so genuinely startling that it sounds improvised, a moment of catharsis that disappears as soon as it surfaces.
■ In the West is a brief snapshot of a fascinating band hitting on a sound at exactly the wrong time. It was too heavy to slot next to other indie rock of the time, not heavy or self~serious enough to hang with the post~Nirvana grunge set. A lot of ‘90s rock music wallowed in misery, and Silkworm was certainly miserable. But they lived inside that pain with wry good humor and sang (and screamed) about it with a light touch. They didn’t point to a way through suffering, but they showed how to bear up under it with grace.
■ This reissue somehow manages to offer too much bonus material without much new context. They seem to include every possible version and iteration of songs recorded circa In the West, and while it’s mildly interesting to listen to alternate takes, live versions and an entire concert from 1993, none of the material feels essential to anyone but devoted fans. Even for us, this stuff is a curio at best.
■ Still, it’s worth calling out Albini’s rework of his own production here. The original’s density was occasionally frustrating: Phelps’ lyrics were sometimes lost in the mix, the bass overtook everything to the point that some of the more interesting guitar moments were muddled, and many tracks sounded like first takes cut right to tape. The reissue does a lot to clear that up, or at least more properly define what is supposed to be heard when. The bass is still very high in the mix — you can never not hear it, but thanks to Albini’s work on this reissue, you get a real sense that these songs were recorded in an actual room. The songs still resemble first takes, but they’re supposed to sound that way. Twenty five years later, it’s clear that In the West was the vital sound of a band of outsiders trying not to implode, and then realizing that sometimes imploding is part of human nature. In other words, it’s the sound of messy acceptance. ■ https://pitchfork.com/
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman | Score: ★★★½