At a show at the Crocodile Cafe, in Seattle on December 5, 1997, Stephen Malkmus, frontman of Pavement at the time, teamed up with another indie rock and lo-fi group, Silkworm. It isn’t surprising Malkmus collaborated with Silkworm back in 1997, since his group and Silkworm had a lot in common. They were both signed with Matador Records at the time and both Malkmus and Silkworm singer, Tim Midyett, beard quite a resemblance in lead vocals. With Malkmus and the group together, they were known as the Crust Brothers.
The Crust Brothers played many shows in the Pacific Northwest (WA, OR), but only one of those were recorded into an album, called Marquee Mark (1998). It was a show in benefit of the Wilderness Coalition, which the group promotes in-between songs throughout the album. The group stuck solely to covers, with Malkmus refusing to play any Pavement songs. Notably, “Summer Babe” was a highly requested song, but Malkmus says at the start of the show, “That’s not going to happen, we’re not playing “Summer Babe.” Silkworm songs were also demanded, where a member from Silkworm says to the crowd after the opener, “Next person who shouts out a Pavement song or Silkworm song, just hit them over the head.” Nonetheless, the band gives in and plays Silkworm’s “Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like,” with Malkmus on lead vocals. Also, with it not really being a cover, ironically, it’s the most organized and cleanest song the band performed.
Out of the twelve songs performed, most were from Bob Dylan and the Band’s popular Basement Tapes (1975). The others were hugely popular classic rock songs, such as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Tuesday’s Gone” and the Byrds’ “Feel A Whole Better,” which the band totally killed. And on their cover of the famous Byrds’ song, Malkmus makes the melody and lead chords totally feel like “Box Elder,” a classic Pavement track. Their cover of “Bessie Smith,” also echoes the grooves and catchy riffs from Pavement’s 1997 album, Brighten the Corners, which came out months before this show. The ending guitar of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” also sounds like the ending of Pavement’s “Cut Your Hair.” Malkmus struggles vocally on the amusing “Yazoo Street Scandal,” where you can hear him trying to catch his breath between verses. However, Malkmus finishes one hell of a messy performance, where he nails his best white boy blues impression. “Lo and Behold” sounds like the band trying to make an old Bob Dylan song into Can, an experimental classic krautrock (German) band, that was influential to Malkmus.
The band plays a lot of Dylan, but they deliver a blow to Dylan’s son’s group, the Wallflowers. Right after “Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like,” someone screams out from the crowd, “Wallflowers,” where a member from Silkworm responds with, “Yeah that’s not true, we’re not playing any fucking wallflowers songs tonight…fuck that shit.”
Out of the covers, the top one was their version of “Heard it Through the Grapevine.” Music critic Greil Marcus, even went onto call it “…the best version of the song ever played.” Even though the band sounded a bit sloppy throughout the show, this performance was surly their best; they actually sounded like a band rather than some friends screwing around jamming. Malkmus’ notable guitar work is heard throughout the performance, which is just as good as his guitar splashes from his performance of CCR’s “Sinister Purpose” from a 1999 episode of Later… with Jools Holland.
The band plays a distorted version of the epic “Tuesday’s Gone,” which features a distinct Malkmus guitar solo.
The album ends with an energetic and fast-paced version of “Mrs. Henry.” This performance sounds like the band has succumbed to the effects of alcohol. It’s a whirl of shambles, with it’s heaviness and ragged vocals; it’s almost a bit unlistenable.
During the many jams from the show, you can hear the versatility from members, as they each switched instruments and lead vocals on tracks. At one point, Malkmus was drumming to Dylan’s “Lo and Behold.”
Despite their lack of practice (possibly) and that slacker energy Malkmus commented about at the beginning of the album, you can hear the band enjoying themselves. And that was the point of it all. There’s a party atmosphere due to the group’s raw intensity and sloppy playing. Now, just imagine if Bob Nastanovich, multi-instrumentalist from Pavement, was part of this supergroup; the music would be just as chaotic.
The Crust Brothers played a few shows throughout the next couple of years. The band returned to the Crocodile Cafe on December 31, 2000, and covered Dylan’s “Spanish Harlem Incident,” which was released on Silkworm’s final 2006 EP, Chokes!.
Favorite tracks: “Going to Acapulco,” “Million Dollar Bash,” “Yazoo Street Scandal,” “Lo and Behold,” “Heard it Through the Grapevine,” “Feel a Whole Lot Better,” “Bitch,” “Tuesday’s Gone”
Least favorite tracks: “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” “Mrs. Henry”
Listen to the Crust Brothers’ Marquee Mark here.