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Comedy Minus One

Libertine

by Silkworm

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about

"Very few bands make even one great album. Silkworm made several, and this is the first." - Steve Albini

Comedy Minus One's long-overdue deluxe reissue of Silkworm's out-of-print 1994 album "Libertine" (cmo019), the third and final full-length record by the band as a quartet.

This is a double 12" pressing with a supplementary CD including "The Marco Collins Sessions" as well as two additional recordings from the band's time at Pachyderm Studio.

Includes all-new artwork throughout plus a full color insert with liner notes by Silkworm's Tim Midyett.

Mastered from the original 1/2" tapes by Bob Weston at Chicago Mastering Service.

Photographs by Mike Hoffman, Jr.

Layout and design by David Babbitt.

Pressed on 150 gram 45 rpm vinyl.

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Silkworm really piss me off. For nigh 20 years now, I’ve tried to explain what it is they do (not “did”-this band lives), and I have failed. I have used dumb phrases like “post-punk in a world where punk never happened.” Also: “music redolent of the new weird America.” I have said these things to friends and strangers, and sometimes even typed them for others to read. All I’ve ever wanted is to figure out is how it is that this music sounds like nothing else, while somehow sounding like everything else-a rock band that has soaked up the past without resorting to pastiche, the bane of so many of their compatriots.

Now, it’s possible I just did it again there, but bear with me-because in order to fully process Libertine you have to understand how strange it sounded in context. Not just odd-but out-of-place, as befits a band that crawled out of Missoula, Montana and drove the wrong direction on I-90, staking a claim in the Pacific Northwest, instead of the Lake Michigan-ic Midwest, where their music would eventually find a more hospitable environment. I mean, can you imagine what it must have been like to be these guys in ’90s Seattle? You know those Charles Peterson live band photos that captured the unbridled intensity and connection between musician and audience, awash in a sea of hair and sweat? I wonder if he’s got one in a drawer somewhere, Silkworm in the natty suits they sometimes wore back then, Andy Cohen placidly crowd-surfing…

But I digress.

Triple-threat songwriting, two cagey guitars circling the drain but never going under, a bassist whose axe looks like an oar and sounds like the metal cable of a suspension bridge, anchored by a drummer clad in little more than gardening gloves whose kick drum (I am told) is the oversize kind favored by marching bands-all in all, a combination as heady as it was brainy. You can hear the rooted rootlessness of the big sky country they left, the austere grandeur of the city where they eventually ended up-and, while they were stuck where they were stuck, a sublimely cerebral version of the stop-start loud-soft dynamics that inexplicably (alright, explicably) put their interregnum city on the global musical map while they were consigned to the margins.

From the dread-beat-and-blood of “There Is a Party In Warsaw Tonight” to the undertow of “Bloody Eyes,” these songs dart in and out of focus, each doing what it sets out to do before yielding the floor. Cohen’s “Grotto of Miracles” crawls like a king snake, with lyrics about smirking at worms and fearing credit reports. Tim Midyett’s “Couldn’t You Wait?” spins riff and wordplay in a way that is somehow heartbreaking. And how exactly Joel Phelps can balance such Iris-Dement-ed vocals over the bounce of “The Cigarette Lighters” is a riddle that will never be solved.

That goes for this whole album. You can’t solve Libertine. That’s its genius. And these guys knew it even if most of the world didn’t. In the maelstrom of the last song, Tim tips this band’s hand: “the dream is a lie.” Too late-we’re dreaming.

Why didn’t he tell us earlier?

Why did he have to wait?

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Greg Milner is a writer, journalist and the author of Perfecting Sound Forever.

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released May 4, 2014

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