The Silos’ latest excursion of musical wanderlust travels the road not taken. Since the band’s critical breakthrough with 1987′s Cuba, frontman Walter Salas-Humara and an ever-shifting lineup have pursued a number of directions, detours and tangents: from punk rock to art rock, from ambient textures to power trio. With Salas-Humara’s elliptical material and laconic vocals, every release has been recognizably the Silos, but each has been something of a surprise as well.
On When The Telephone Rings, the surprise is that the album could pass as a natural follow-up to Cuba, a companion piece oblivious to all those side trips and the passage of time. From the organic, homespun songcraft of “Whistled A Slow Waltz” and “Holding On To Life” (reprised as a bonus cut with a children’s chorus) to the soaring, swirling violin of Mary Rowell on “The First Move”, the collection serves as a renewal, a reminder of those elements that made the Silos sound so fresh and established the band as a seminal influence on the indie alt-country to come. Vocal support from Amy Allison and Mary Lee Kortes enhances the arrangements, while Television’s Richard Lloyd provides guest guitar on “15 Days”.
Though there’s a timeless quality to the sound, the songs are very much of the moment, offering a spirit of hope in troubled times. The title cut never mentions September 11, but its mood of bittersweet mourning captures the lingering aftermath perfectly. Both the rockin’ revolution heralded by the album-opening “The Only Love” (with its tautological hook, “Only love can be the only love”) and the propulsive immediacy of “Innocent” provide a post-millennial affirmation that engages the world but refuses to be defeated by it.
When The Telephone Rings sounds like an album Salas-Humara could have made at any time, but needed to make right now.