Seattle's Silkworm rides the crest of two improbable trends with its seventh studio album, "Lifestyle," out on Touch & Go on August 21st 2000..

First, their march toward a unified, signature sound, which began on the band's 1996 debut as a trio, "Firewater", takes a giant leap forward here. Second, the songs just keep getting better as they get more sophisticated.

"Improbable" trends because both go against the grain of The Way Things Work in Rock. Usually, when a group's sound expands as much as Silkworm's has (all three members sing here, and the keyboards that first bowed in on "Blueblood" are even more prominent), the trend is toward disintegration rather than unification (Einheit, as the Germans have it). Consider, if you will, the White Album.

But slowly, almost imperceptibly, bassist Tim Midgett and guitarist Andy Cohen's songs have bent toward a common, SKWM horizon, even as their individuality remains secure. Andy's "Treat the New Guy Right" returns the serve lobbed by "Tablecloth Tint" and "Empty Elevator Shaft" from the last record; Tim's "Plain" and Andy's "Roots" mesh shared memories of their Montana hometown; Andy's razor-wire guitar and Tim's baritone guitar snake around one another like twin brothers with a common soul; and you can't even be sure who is singing at first on the radiant closer "The Bones."

"Improbable" once again because as bands grow older, inspiration and fire are usually in

shorter supply, and the songs grow more orchestrated but thinner, feebler. Not here: "Contempt" is perhaps Andy's clearest and most polished statement of the Talented Mr. Ripley theme he's assayed before, and Tim's "Slave Wages" actually comes close to a campfire singalong on the chorus, a first for these alleged too-intellectual depressives.

"Improbable" finally because the moral one takes as the last strains of "The Bones" fall away is hope: hope that reasonably well-adjusted adult guys can turn the boredom and disappointment of the everyday into glorious art-rock, hope that the next record will be as good as or better than the last.

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