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Silkworm has been steadily putting forth quality rock for over ten years now. In the early days ('85-'87), back in Missoula, Montana, Tim Midgett, Andy Cohen, and Joel Phelps played together in a band called Ein Heit. In 1987, they regrouped and renamed themselves Silkworm, and in 1990, they moved to Seattle. Because they were from a small town, Silkworm had to rely more on creativity than on local bands' influences to develop their sound. In their sprawling, moody songs, intricate guitar solos wander along into blasts of powerful noise, drums sparsely touch or powerfully dominate melodies, and Phelps, Cohen, and Midgett each write and sing with devastating raw emotion. But despite their creativity and skill, and despite the fact that Seattle was home to a vibrant music scene in the early '90s, Silkworm had a hard time breaking through to local audiences. They self-released an album (L'ajre) and a single, and played to consistently small crowds, but they didn't give up.

In 1994, C/Z Records released In the West, which became the new favorite record of almost everyone who heard it. Silkworm began to tour almost nonstop and began to draw larger and more die-hard crowds both at home and across the country. That same year, they recorded and released Libertine (El Recordo). Phelps left the band after that album to pursue his solo career, but Midgett, Cohen, and drummer Michael Dahlquist continued on. As a three-piece, Silkworm's sound became tighter and more focused, allowing Dahlquist's wonderfully unpredictable drums, Midgett's loping, melodic basslines, and Cohen's angular, frenzied guitar to shine more clearly.

Matador Records released two new Silkworm albums, '96's Firewater and '97's Developer, as well as one double CD, '98's Even a Blind Chicken Finds a Kernel of Corn Now and Then, which compiled the band's first LP, an EP ('93's His Absence is a Blessing, on Seattle DJ Marco Collins's tiny Stampede label), and all their singles. Silkworm then moved to Touch and Go to release 1998's Blueblood and 2000's Lifestyle (coincidentally -- or not -- Cohen moved to Touch and Go's hometown of Chicago in 1998 to attend law school).

On Lifestyle, the members of Silkworm show that they still know how to rock but aren't afraid to incorporate new elements into their songs. The band even tackles The Faces' classic "Ooh La La," imbuing it with gritty urgency and desperation, simultaneously honoring the original and making it distinctly their own. "Treat the New Guy Right," featured here, is an irresistibly catchy song that combines Silkworm's signature tight, refined power trio style with female backing vocals (courtesy of producer Heather Whinna), piano, and a shout-along chorus.

2002's Italian Platinum takes the direction of Lifestyle even further with the unmistakable mark of producer Steve Albini's fingerprints. Bombastic drums and high midrange guitars that scream of classic Touch and Go Records production jibe strangely and interestingly with Silkworm's trademark twang. In fact, the album is a bit like Shellac's 1000 Hurts. Kelly Hogan belts out the chorus of the track offered here from Italian Platinum, "(I Hope U) Don't Survive."

The other song presented here, "Dead Animals," is not from any of the aforementioned albums: it appeared on the Vital Cog compilation Pet Sounds Volume One, a benefit CD compilation for A.L.T.E.R. (Animal Liberation Through Education and Reform, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the well-being of all animals). It's an earnestly silly paean to the virtues of vegetarianism. Although it is slightly more stripped-down than most Silkworm songs, it beautifully illustrates the band's dry sense of humor and glorious songwriting.