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Montanans-via-Seattle, the members of Silkworm roll lean, emotional songs in chrome-tinged post-punk guitar rock. On the band’s fourth album, the first for higher-profile ’90s indie Matador, the band distinguishes itself with its ability to harness ’70s rock influences without recourse to kitsch or nostalgia. Imagine Neil Young or the Dream Syndicate’s Steve Wynn fronting a melodic Big Black unembarrassed to borrow riffs from .38 Special. Former Blackster Steve Albini recorded the trio in Montana and Chicago, and his aesthetic provides appropriately extreme settings for the band’s tense tales. These stories explore ugly urban fictions and personal traumas, sometimes appropriating alcoholic macho images and perspectives, vistas that leave one wondering whether the setting is the bar, bedroom, or battlefield. Silkworm succeeds in communicating the emotion that lies beneath the surface of its stark, exaggerated maleness. Well aware of this contrast, “The Lure of Beauty,” which features a character who is an unemployed pipeline worker, is addressed to an “empty vessel macho man.” Guitarist Andy Cohen’s songs are bleak and abstract, allowing him to create sprawling, dramatic guitarscapes with solos placed just about anywhere, while bassist Tim Midgett’s dustier contributions are more intimate and are characterized by his distinctive drawl, which is convincingly desperate on “Ticket Tulane.” While Firewater maintains a formidable intensity for 16 songs, it’s not as immediate as 1994’s Libertine. This album’s heavy mood, as well as Cohen’s fretwork, makes this epic demanding listening.

—John Dugan