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Firewater

Silkworm

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Album Review

It's a difficult thing to have too many cooks in the kitchen, especially when all of them are iron chefs. Joel Phelps' semi-forced exit made a big difference. On one hand, it was bad: Phelps was an integral part of the band since its inception. And on the other, it was good: the pared-down sound fit the band well, and that's quite evident on the four-sided Firewater. Left to two voices, the band produces its most cohesive and precise set, despite it being their most broad; Firewater clocks in with 16 tracks at an hour long. Not a minute is wasted, and everything sounds more measured and relaxed. Lyrically, the themes of each song tie in with a couple concepts in mind, not suffering from the somewhat schizo topics of previous LPs. As the lone guitarist, Cohen spreads his wings, turning in some lengthy solos. At times, his scorchy leads seem twice as loud as the bass and drums, but it's called for each time. Midgett's thick bass becomes more of a centerpiece than an anchor, sounding its thickest yet. Stripped bare to the degree of sounding awkward on the first few listens, a couple songs rely mainly on light rhythms and little else. The record's themes of alienation and inebriation are balanced by spells of dark humor. Cohen is always reliable for the occasional zinger, and Midgett's woes-of-the-road "Miracle Mile" provides many yuks at the band's expense. Also, the occasional cathartic yelping and complex structures seem to be done away with, in favor of more classic influences (the Stones-y "Lure of Beauty") and decreasing tangential incidents. Though one hates to say it in the wake of Phelps, Firewater sounds like a band that's just lost its training wheels — fuller yet less cluttered.

Biography

Formed: 1987 in Missoula, MT

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

The noisy, bracing Seattle-based post-punk unit Silkworm formed in their native Missoula, MT, in 1987. Originally comprised of vocalists/guitarists Andy Cohen and Joel Phelps, vocalist/bassist Tim Midgett, and drummer Ben Koostra, Silkworm rose from the ashes of the band Ein Heit; a prolific and eclectic group from their inception (everyone but Koostra, who exited in 1989, contributed to songwriting duties), they issued their debut cassette Advantage in 1988. After two more tapes, 1989's Girl Harbrr...
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Firewater, Silkworm
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