from the Critical List, July 10, 1987
Silos: Cuba (Record Collect). There's a theory, or a tenet, or whatever it is, that holds that Real Art's a function of Pain and Neuroses and Psychic Derangement, and that all Real Artists are Miserable -- 50,000 famous examples are at this point in the argument paraded by in support -- and that the Truths they express are (at best, at worst, it's all the same) a sort of Wallowing in Shit. Because, of course, the World Is Shit, and not to admit it -- nay, to embrace it! -- is either cowardly or naive, or both. Many of the record albums I receive in the mail, especially those of the more alternative variety (the mainstream being mostly and truly content to just have a good time and make a lot of money), sound to be founded upon just such a principle. I have, from time to time (especially when attempting something "artistic" myself), wondered if there might not be something to this view, wondered whether my basic contentedness might not be what stands between me and all my Great Works Unrealized. Must one abandon oneself to the demimonde in order to penetrate the eternal verities? Well, I'm skeptical. I mean, what's wrong with domestic bliss? Why is that any more boring than, say, drug addiction? Why do some people who love to hear Lou Reed sing about heroin leave the room when he pays tribute to his wife and home? What's so great (or revolutionary, or brave) about being fucked up? Can't one be in the vanguard without having a lot of stuff to work through? Can't happiness be interesting?
     Questions, questions, questions! All of them occasioned by Cuba, the second excellent LP by New York's Silos, wherein are offered (as effective if not necessarily intentional refutation of the gloomy postulates recounted above) several songs that, in a manner as straightforward, physically affecting and musically uncompromising as can be found anywhere else in the American pop underground, unsanctimoniously celebrate not the Darkness but the acts and conditions that stave it off -- family, fellowship, commitment, love. That, for example, "Mary's Getting Married" ("On March 15th/Up in Vermont/At her family's house"), and not even to the singer, is made to sound terribly adventurous and profound -- which, of course, it is. There's nothing so difficult, after all, about letting one's life go to hell. I see it everywhere I go, and, frankly, I'm not impressed. It's the nature of the physical universe and the business world, as well as of the human heart, that it's easier to shut down than it is to stay open. To live, to love, to work, is to spit in the face of entropy. I go for that, and the Silos seem to, too. That's one (of more than one) reason(s) I dig this record to the max, baby. There's a current of tenderness running the course of the LP, through ballad and rave-up alike, the expression of which (both in words and music) is so clear and direct and matter-of-fact that the most potentially mawkish sentiments ring only true. "Every day I see my wife/Her words cut through every defense/I ask for advice/When she speaks it's from the heart/And she knows I'm hers for always," states most-of-the-time leader Walter Salas-Humara, and you simply cannot not believe him; you hear it as an accurate report. Such deadpan details as "Margaret goes to bed around eight/I go to bed around 1/Margaret gets up at six/I get up at six" speak volumes about the workings of real-world affection and sacrifice; it's through these little things that we may approach the Big....

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Copyright Robert Lloyd 1987 and 2006