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Silkworm: Developer

Album: Developer
Label: Matador

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Silkworm's recorded history is as spotty as that of any band out there: Its five albums contain moments of cataclysmic power (much of 1994's career-best In The West) and moments that never quite gel musically (much of 1996's frustrating Firewater). With the departure of singer Joel R.L. Phelps—he decided to go solo before Firewater was recorded—Silkworm has struggled to recapture the raw, eclectic fury of its early work. And finally, for the most part, the new Developer does the trick nicely: The album easily shifts moods from clattering bombast ("Never Met A Man I Didn't Like") to surprisingly gentle melodiousness ("The City Glows," "Sheep Wait For Wolf"). Silkworm is still as craggy and obtuse as ever, of course, but Developer occasionally lets the band's dark little heart shine through. It's the group's best album in quite some time.