Sunday, July 23, 2006

Here come the Worm hits

Watching Ladyhawk Friday night at the Rivoli, I was reminded of a band that I had first seen on the same stage some 10 years ago: Silkworm. Both bands favour a form of frayed-nerve indie-rock that balances out the fuzz-pedal outbursts with wide open space, and both deal in the sort of bald, biting lyrics that can sometimes make them sound like assholes, even though we're always on their side of the argument.

For the uninitiated: Silkworm released several albums on such venerable labels as Matador and Touch and Go (many of which were recorded by Steve Albini) and were essentially Pavement's soul brothers, though their pop discord owed less to the Velvets/Sonic Youth school and more to Crazy Horse/Minutemen. Silkworm and Steve Malkmus even formed a supergroup of sorts called The Crust Brothers, ostensibly for the purpose of playing drunken Dylan covers, as documented on 1998's cheekily titled Marquee Mark.

Despite their formidable credentials, Silkworm were a mostly unknown quantity, even by indie-rock standards; the aforementioned gig at the Rivoli in '96 was attended by 50 people (and the 50 quietest people in Toronto at that), which was particularly shocking to me as, at the time, I assumed every band signed to Matador were rock stars. (I even felt compelled to go up to the band after the show and apologize for the muted reception.) The closest the band ever got to superstardom was when guitarist Andy Cohen filled in for Bush's Bigel Pusford for a few stadium gigs. But even if fame (or, heck, even a Magnet cover story) eluded them, you got the sense this band would be around forever, churning out solid albums so long as their day jobs allowed them the time.

Sadly, it was not to be: just over a year ago, on July 14 2005, the band's drummer Michael Dahlquist was killed in the most horrible of accidents -- the car containing him and two workmates was blindsided by a suicidal motorist who struck their car with the intention of ending her life. Dahlquist and his friends, John Click and Dougas Meis, were killed on impact. Crazy driver woman, of course, lived — though her modelling career is probably finished.

Dahlquist became the second person I've ever interviewed to pass on. In tribute to a good man and his band, here's a small sample of Silkworm's greatest shoulda-woulda-coulda-been contenders.

Silkworm - Never Met a Man I Didn't Like
Silkworm - Treat the New Guy Right
Silkworm - Drunk