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Retro-Review: The Silos - The Silos (1990)

Keith Higgons

Posted on February 19, 2019 17:52

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Before there was the Alt-Country genre, there was The Silos.

We could spend days splitting hairs about the origin of Alternative Country but it’s worth noting that NYC based The Silos, built around Walter Salas-Humara and Bob Rupe, released their first album, About Her Steps, in 1986, when Alt-Country godfathers, Uncle Tupelo, were still in high school playing covers as The Primitives.

In 1987, The Silos released Cuba and that led to being voted Rolling Stone’s Best New Artist of that year. Following the then typical rock and roll trajectory, they signed a major label record deal with RCA Records.

And in 1990, The Silos delivered The Silos, their self-titled debut (sometimes called The One with The Bird on The Cover), produced by Salas-Humara, Rupe and Peter Moore.

Like a loud thunderclap, the album explodes with “Caroline” before it relaxes into a classic mid-tempo rocker. They then pull back the reigns to tell the story of a lonely fisherman, “Commodore Peter” setting the tone for the album. Of course, all the songs contain the usual musical tropes.

Love? Check.
Heartbreak? Check.
Yearning? Check.

Beer and Cars? Obviously! Both serve as the penultimate middle finger in “I’m Over You”. At the other end of the  beer and car spectrum is the ebullient and adoring “Here’s to You” that closes the album.

The Silos works on a large musical canvas. From the foot stomping & barn burning “Anyway You Choose Me” to the plaintive & pleaful “(We’ll Go) Out of Town” to the poignant & wedding ready “The Only Story I Tell”.

But don’t let the seeming simplicity of these lyrics fool you. These lyrics are so unpretentious that they belie their emotional complexity. The lyrics are so good that acclaimed writer Jonathan Lethem proclaimed Walter Salas-Humara  “. . . one of our greatest songwriters.” 

The Silos was deftly produced to strip away any artifice to create a bare-bones, yet textured, sound that serves the lyrics, the music and the band perfectly. Unfortunately, even though well reviewed, and with a booking on the influential Late Night with David Letterman (at his peak on NBC), the album struggled to find an audience.

I suspect that the album was too rock for country and too country for rock. And college radio was too self-involved.

This album would be the last time Walter Salas-Humara and Bob Rupe collaborated as The Silos. Salas-Humara quit the band and then purchased the rights to The Silos name from Rupe in 1991.  

Bob Rupe went on to play in several bands before joining Cracker from 1994-2000. He's also appeared as a guest on many other albums.

In addition to his art and solo work, Walter Salas-Humara continues recording and touring under The Silos banner.

The subject of the originator of the Alternative Country genre is best argued over a boilermaker in a dive bar. What matters is that The Silos debut album was both of its time & ahead of its time.

I suspect it will sound just as good 30 years from now.

Keith Higgons

Posted on February 19, 2019 17:52

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Alt-country heroes to release political new album 'Union' on March 29th

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