Silkworm – Lifestyle

5 out of 5

Produced by: Steve Albini, Heather Whinna

Label: Touch and Go

I don’t know where to figure Lifestyle within the mighty Silkworm discography, except exactly where it is: post the middle, a fitting response, of sorts, to the hard-edged Blueblood, and ushering in the comparatively more mature albums that followed.  It’s very much a standout, not quite linked to what came before – which morphed from punkier origins through a Pavement-esque jangle and then the beat-driven stripped down stylings of Developer or Blueblood – or what came after, when the group’s years of playing together congealed into this unbeatable mass of deft and daring dad-rock.  …And if any of that sounds like an insult, I don’t mean it to be: Silkworm managed all of these things with style; a band playing something old with the spirit of it being something new, which made it new, and made it wholly their own.

Then there’s Lifestyle.  With its weirdly sedate cover (light pastels; a distant shot of people lining up for a plane), and a brand of rock that damned-if-it-ain’t pop, and a full-on lyrical focus of workaday drudgery, and a cover song (perhaps one of my most replayed songs ever, much to my coworkers’ chagrin at the music store at the time)… it is undeniably Silkworm, and yet, as I’m trying to clarify, not exactly in the lineage of their releases.

But every single song is magic.  Every song maintains that cocked smile of tone, instantly recognizable hooks or melodies emerging from track to track, the keys (Brett Gossman) fully melded into things instead of used in juxtaposition, as they’d tend to otherwise be.  Take all of your favorite SKWM anthems and spread them across one album, narrowing the runtime of a song down to its bare essentials – atypically, there aren’t many solo freakouts here – and filling the space inbetween the instant-classics with songs just as instantly-classic, just trading a fist-pumping peak for a bit more momentum.  There ain’t no gaps.

Lifestyle is a monster, but it’s also the group’s most accessible disc.  Albini and Heather Whinna allow for a very warm sound, and the group plays their hearts out without potentially alienating listeners with too much guitar worship or focus on sex-and-drinkin’ touring.  I don’t know how it fits into to the grander Silkworm scheme, but that hardly matters when faced with something so good.