Silkworm | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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There's usually a thin line between pretense and genuine artistic vision. When someone plumbs the depths of his or her soul, more often than not sewage is all that will be dredged up. In the case of the Seattle trio Silkworm, there's some honesty strewn in with their shit. On their new double album, Firewater (Matador), their first without founding cosongwriter Joel Phelps, drunken confession coexists with dime-store philosophizing, melodramatic narrative, and elliptical metaphor. A fascination with words and a desire to seem profound frequently trips up the songs written by bassist Tim Midgett and guitarist Andy Cohen. When they sing such stilted lyrics as "May I suggest a draught to help you digest / The sugar in that Boone's Farm wine / Or any other really cheap apple kind" (from "Drunk"), it's hard to know whether they're showing off how much they know about rotgut or trying to paint an observant portrait of alcoholism. But there are times when their romanticism connects, as on "Tarnished Angel," another sot's story: "I thank God for relentless thirst / Corn liquor can't speak unless you drink it first." The group has weathered the loss of Phelps surprisingly well, using the trio format to inject interesting dynamic shifts with one or another instrument laying out at different times and giving the songs unusual spatial thrills. Cohen's playing continues to improve. His anguished solos suggest a combination of raw Neil Young and unpolished Tom Verlaine, but with a lack of direction that reflects the band's lyrical ennui. A Minor Forest open this free show, which promises to be packed. Saturday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 276-3600. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jill Greenberg.

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