There are at least two reasons I can think of for a record label to reissue a band’s album. One is to make heaps of money by remastering it for a new medium (hello, Dark Side of the Moon). The other would be to rectify any technical mishandlings of the original album (such as the suspect mix on The Stooges’ Raw Power, or Todd Rundgren punting the engineering on XTC’s Skylarking). From the consumer side, a reissue can mean getting a better quality version of a favorite album, some previously unreleased tracks, or, at the very least, a piece in the puzzle of a record collection.
This all raises the question of why Comedy Minus One has decided to reissue the 1994 album Libertine by Silkworm. I have a pretty strict “no fronting” policy, so I’ll be honest that I had no exposure to Silkworm before this reissue. My personal pillars of the early 90s like Pavement and Weezer are also the bands that may have helped push Silkworm to the periphery of indie rock. In fact, Libertine in its original form has been out of print for some time. Sure that could have driven up the demand for this re-release over the years, but it also might be a sign of the necessity of Silkworm’s oeuvre. Basically, this seems like the deepest of cuts a label could have chosen to dig up.
With that being said, it is certainly still a somewhat enjoyable album. Perhaps Silkworm never achieved Pavement or Weezer’s status of genre-defining because they were so solidly genre-bending. They sit safely outside of the total apathy of grunge while lacking the complete youthful exuberance of garage rock. Their aggression is displayed both in the expansive calamity of “Cotton Girl” and the sour balladry of “Yen + Janet Forever.” Drenched in distortion and tinged with dissonance, Silkworm is unapologetic in their musical presentation. Even when the lyrics “I’m sorry I ended up the way that I am,” pop up, there’s very little sincerity in their atonement. They don’t have to apologize for who they are. Libertine indeed.
The extra material on the album ranges from poignant to perilous. “Insider” is solemn and gut-wrenching to the point where I wished it would have been the real closer to the album. However, the acoustic flavor of the Marco Collins Sessions renders Silkworm’s combative nature toothless. The new songs aren’t necessarily bad, but they are certainly out of character.
If there exists a hardcore set of fans for Silkworm, then I’m certain they are happy. An album long thought extinct has jumped back into the collective consciousness. I imagine it will be much like the feeling when I finally get my hands on the DVDs of the show Ed. But for anyone who may be coming to this for the first time or having their memory jogged about Silkworm, there will mainly be the question of “why?”