Hive Five: Our Daily Listicle of Musical Musings
For nearly two decades, the iconic Silkworm were both perennial rock gods and underground underdogs. Over nine monumental records from 1992 to 2006 -- the bulk of which were recorded for seminal labels Matador and Touch & Go -- guitarist Andy Cohen, bassist Tim Midgett and drummer Michael Dahlquist slayed with blood-raw, arena-ready rock and roll anthems that bustled with hilariously damaged tales, chock full of whore ‘n’ booze-soaked wordplay. Meanwhile, Silkworm did their thing in the shadow of spotlight hoggers like Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr and Pavement.
Now eight years after the horrific car accident that took Dahlquist's life and ultimately forcing Cohen and Midgett to disband the group for good, Nashville filmmaker Seth Pomeroy’s ultimate statement of Silkworm love called Couldn't You Wait? has finally come to fruition. A positively human account of childhood friends starting a rock band simply for the love of playing, Pomeroy traces Silkworm’s lineage from their early quartet days with Joel R. Phelps in Montana before their relocation to Seattle and finally on to Chicago.
Along with Cohen and Midgett recounting their trajectory, Pomeroy gathered a host of luminaries, collaborators and fans alike for this comprehensive documentary, including Stephen Malkmus, Steve Albini, Jeff Tweedy, Henry Owings of Chunklet Magazine and Matador honcho Gerard Cosloy to bow at the Silkworm altar. The renewed interest in Silkworm has also prompted the Comedy Plus One label--home to Cohen and Midgett's post-Silkworm band Bottomless Pit--to reissue 1994's long out-of-print classic Libertine, complete with a bunch of rarities.
Hive caught up with Pomeroy to talk about his favorite Silkworm moments and exclusive clips from Live Worm -- a 90 minute live footage compilation included in the deluxe package of the film.
1. “Wet Firecracker”
In almost 20 years of being a band, this is the only official music video Silkworm ever made. Made during the golden era of 120 Minutes, where suddenly a band like Silkworm could be considered for airplay just as much as a band like Bush. But the song choice is odd: while being catchy and up-tempo, "Wet Firecracker" isn't necessarily a great representation of the band's sound. And the concept is virtually nonexistent. Still, I think the people who saw it and liked it went out and bought the record … even if it was only played on MTV once or twice.
2. “Slow Hands” (from “Live Worm”)
This is the signature Andy Cohen Silkworm song -- not only does it show off his amazing guitar work, it's a great example of what he can do lyrically. This clip has one of my favorite musical moments in all of the footage we acquired: around the 3:20 mark, they all seem to lock in together and the music just elevates -- in this unconscious way -- to a whole other level. As they settle back into the verses, you can see Tim, eyes shut, completely lost in the music as they slowly settle down into the verses. Few rock bands play with that kind of sincerity.
3. “Drunk” (from “Live Worm”)
This clip really captures the party atmosphere of a later era Chicago show, complete with fans singing along and shouting out requests. But what's worth noting is the botched intro: Tim barely makes it to the first verse before the song comes to a sudden halt. He shrugs it off, Andy re-lights his cigarette, and they launch back into it. In some circles, this sort of thing might be considered unprofessional, but there's something so honest and endearing about how they pick it right back up and tear through it. It almost feels like you're watching them at practice.
4. “Scruffy Tumor”
This is the only footage we uncovered of the original lineup with Joel Phelps. Joel started Silkworm in Montana with Tim and Andy and was one of the principal songwriters in the band throughout the early 90's. Filmed in 1998, four years after Joel left the band, this show was actually a reunion for their high school band, Ein Heit. "Scruffy Tumor" is another lyrically edgy song of Andy's, filled with trademark lines like "If you don't like it, you can suck me, I'm in my prime." The trio version of this song sounds considerably different as Joel's guitar parts have been completely removed from the arrangement.
John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats is a huge Silkworm fan. He started covering "Plain" from Lifestyle sometime last year and invited Tim Midgett up to sing it when the tour stopped in Chicago. Not only does this mark a rare occasion in Tim singing with another band but it marks the first time he's performed Silkworm music on stage since Michael's death. My favorite thing about this clip is watching Darnielle singing along and cheering Tim on the whole time. We never got to interview him for the film but his enthusiasm and appreciation for the band is clearly expressed here.
Couldn't You Wait? the story of SILKWORM is out now.