Again, not country. But that’s okay. It’s another well-crafted Wilco song.
I crave crazy times again
Our nights, our nights
Would never end.
I appreciate skronk and noize as much as the next guy, I suppose, but my favorite Wilco has always been the pretty stuff. I like to see what a band can do within the confines of a traditional pop song structure. Every once in a while a band can do something interesting with a 12-minute jam or an extended freakout — “Cowgirl in the Sand” and “Sister Ray” come to mind — but most of the time it just comes off as wanky or lazy. I prefer songwriters to get to the point. Work harder on your craft and refine it into something good. Edit.
I get that bands like to “stretch out” or whatever and that’s fine. Do what you like. But I’m happy that Wilco is promising to release a whole (double!) album full of what appears to be acoustic pop songs. That’s my jam. If this is what Tweedy thinks of as “country” that’s fine. Tomato, tomahto.
Hot damn! I’ve barely processed the news that Wilco is going to release a super deluxe 20th anniversary edition of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot featuring 82 unreleased tracks when they come out and announce a brand new album. And not just any album, but a double album featuring an “exploration of the genre they’ve often been defined by but, until now, never fully embraced.” I.e., country.
Other than the lead guitar tone, this new song doesn’t really sound particularly country. But still! If Tweedy’s idea of country is tightly structured songwriting, conversational lyrics, groovy harmonies, and twangy guitars, that’s good enough for me! Yee-ha!
Directed by Zoe Donahoe and Adam Sputh. From Quitters, due April 1 on Anti-.
Does this song sample Wilco’s “Born Alone” or just interpolate it? Either way, it’s a good use of a great riff.
I really like Christian Lee Hutson. He’s about 20 years younger than me but he reminds me of people I knew growing up. He just seems like somebody I would’ve hung out with. His lyrics are sad and funny and nostalgic and a little hopeful. And his melodic sensibilities and delivery reveal an appreciation of Elliott Smith, which gets me every time. I’ve been a fan since the first time I heard “Northsiders” with its references to Morrissey apologists and pretentious college kids.
Anti- is calling “Rubberneckers” the lead single from the upcoming album Quitters, so does that mean “Strawberry Lemonade” — released in November — was a standalone single? Doubtful. But whatever. Who knows what “lead single” means anyway. It can mean whatever you want it to mean, I guess, or it can mean nothing at all. Who cares, the song is good and the video is silly.
Hutson says, “The last time I danced was at the 8th grade social and it was mainly just swaying to ‘I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing’ but I wanted to showcase what a natural, gifted dancer I am.” Absolutely!
If you tell a lie for long enough
Then it becomes the truth.
I am gonna be okay someday
With or without you.
There’s nothing truer than the lies we tell ourselves.
Directed by Joel Kefali and Ella Yelich-O’Connor. From Solar Power, out now on UMG.
Hey, remember when Billy Bragg and Wilco started digging through Woody Guthrie’s old boxes of unfinished songs and put out two really solid albums of that material and then Jay Farrar was all like, ” I want in on that!” and Billy Bragg released a third album of that Guthrie material that Jeff Tweedy thought wasn’t up-to-snuff but it was cock-blocking Farrar so whatever? Wild times.
“Fallen Fruit” sounds like Lorde’s take on an unfinished Elliott Smith song and let me tell you reader, I am all about it. I miss Elliott Smith being in thew world–a lot. Lorde channels his mastery of melody and melancholy with just a hint of danger in “Fallen Fruit.” She hits right on target and the result is a lovely reminder of what we’ve lost with Elliott Smith gone from the world but what we still have in writers like Lorde.
While it might not seem to be, when bands go out on the road, touring, that’s business travel. They’re not out there because they want to sleep in a bus or collect loyalty points at a chain motel where the room smells like cigarette filters and feet. It’s their job the same way the proverbial traveling salesperson is racking up the miles on that rental Impala that has a mysterious noise coming from under the hood that increases slightly with every mile clocked on the odometer.
The musicians show up at the venues large or small, hoping they’ll make the nut that will continue to allow them to make it.
Although bands aren’t corporations per se (of course, I’m talking here about bands that are clawing along in buses, vans and beaters, not those who probably have empty office space in Delaware that is the address of their incorporation papers), they are businesses, in effect, that face the same sorts of logistical challenges on the road as the aforementioned salesperson.
Good news, such as it is, for those bands who are facing the consequences of COVID-19 is that as McKinsey points out in an examination of business travel trends of the moment, “For Corporate Travel, a Long Recovery Ahead” by Andrew Curley, Rachel Garber, Vik Krishnan and Jillian Tellez, “Looking first at the distance of business travel, regional and domestic trips will likely see a return before international travel does.” So odds are for the foreseeable future, competition with non-domestic brands bands will not be much of an issue. And for those who may have car sickness, better lay on a bigger supply of Dramamine because the McKinsey report continues, “Within domestic travel, trips that can happen in personal or rental vehicles may replace short regional flights until companies’ comfort with sending employees via airplanes increases.” While taking the Delta Connection may seem a bit extreme for many bands purely from a financial standpoint, there are those musicians who need to get to a gig that would be outside the realm of a drive—although that verb should have been in the past tense—needed—because it is still the case that most venues are closed and will continue to exist in that state for the next several months—or they’ll simply stop existing.
All of which means that this whole discussion of business travel is a moot point because if bands have no place to perform, it just may be that they’ll have to disband.
That is a consequence of C-19 that will silently echo for years after the vaccine has been injected into our systems.
Directed by Jessica Dobson, Peter Mansen, Tyler Kalberg. From Impossible Weight, out October 16th on ATO.
I saw Deep Sea Diver open up for Wilco back in November, which was the last concert I went to before covid, unless I’m forgetting something, which I totally could be, because this fucking pandemic has obliterated any real sense of time or memory. I would’ve sworn that show was at least three years ago but nope.
And you can hear that maybe a little bit of the headliner rubbed off onto this new song with its swirling chimes and its verses that assassin down the avenue.
But that was then and this is now
I tried so hard not to let you all down
It’s an impossible weight
So I’ll just let you down now
When I was 14 I got into the Monkees when MTV started showing the reruns. Riding the success of that revival, Clive Davis of Arista Records convinced Micky and Peter to a record a few songs for a new hits compilation. “That Was Then, This Is Now” debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 on July 5, 1986, peaked at No. 20, and stayed on the chart for 14 weeks. I turned 15 during its reign and I loved it. The album, Then & Now…The Best of the Monkees, stayed on the Billboard 200 for 34 weeks. I played the cassette nonstop.
In not too long I would start to pick up the original albums at garage sales and the Rhino reissues at record stores. My copy of Headquarters had a crack (not a scratch, a crack) that went all the way through, but if I lined it up just right it would still play.
None of that really has anything to do with Deep Sea Diver, but if you’re going to have a chorus that says “that was then and this is now” then you’re going to get a Monkees story out of me and that’s just the way it is.
Directed by Zoran Orlic. From Ode to Joy, out now on dBpm.
I saw Wilco in concert a few weeks ago and they still put on a great show. I am a solid member of the old school Wilco fan camp who believes they made their best stuff in their first ten years of existence, but I’m not such a hater as to dismiss everything they’ve done since Jay Bennett was given the boot.
I’ll admit that the last album I really loved all the way through was Wilco (The Album), but that was also–perhaps not coincidentally–the last Wilco album I purchased in a physical format. I can accept the possibility that I just haven’t dedicated the time to fully appreciate the four studio albums they released since then.
My overall impression of their recent releases is that they each have a few songs I like, a few songs I don’t, and a bunch of songs I immediately forget. That’s not so bad. They’ve been doing this a long time. What do you expect?
“Before Us” falls into the latter category. It’s pretty but boring. Pleasant but…is that it?
While I realize it would be cost prohibitive for a band that pays for and releases its own recordings, at this point in their lifespan it might be interesting for them to get out of the Loft, where they’ve recorded everything since 2007’s Sky Blue Sky, and work with an outside producer. For all the current lineup’s artrock bonafides, when’s the last time they did anything that surprised you? I’m sure the Loft is super comfortable, but maybe Tweedy needs somebody to kick his ass a little. Shake things up.
Or maybe not. I’m happy they continue to tour and release new music, and if they’ve found the formula that allows them to do this ad infinitum then good for them. Nothing they’ve released this decade is going to make my desert island list, but guess what: I’m not moving to a desert island anytime soon.
Streaming has rendered minimalism and careful curation obsolete. There was a time when people would sell back used CDs that they didn’t think they needed anymore, so that they could afford to buy new stuff. You didn’t want embarrassing shit clogging up your shelves, bringing down the legitimacy of your collection. There’s no need for that anymore.
Keep releasing music and I’ll keep listening. At least a few times before I go back to Being There.
Directed by Jamie Fleischel. From Ode to Joy, due October 4, 2019 via dBpm.
Boy, as if I needed another reminder how much I miss living in Chicago…
In Wilco’s new video the band runs around town visiting all the best spots including Laurie’s Planet of Sound, the Music Box, and Wrigley Field. There are several Wilco easter eggs like Pat Sansone catching a matinee of the Peter Sellers film “Being There” and Glenn Kotche sneaking around Marina City.
The song is good too. Similar in spirit to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot‘s “Kamera,” it even echoes the themes of that song (“Which lies I have been hiding” vs. “If you’re selling yourself on a tale…”)
But I don’t know about Tweedy’s whispery vocals. I wish he’d just sing in his regular voice more. Still though, I’m happy Wilco is making new music and I’m looking forward to seeing them on this upcoming tour.
Documentary director Sam Jones kept a “filmmaker’s diary” of his experience working on a movie about Wilco. The documentary would eventually be called “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” but I remember a short period of time when the film’s web site called it “I’m Trying to Break Your Heart.” (The Internet Wayback Machine tells me the title was updated on wilcofilm.com some time between March 26 and May 23, 2002.)
Jones rolled out the diary to the site every couple of weeks after transcribing his handwritten notes from months before, starting with his writing to Wilco’s manager about the idea in October 2000. The final entry was uploaded in February 2002 after only getting through August 2001. Jones said, “We will continue to update the diary every few weeks with new entries, and have no intention of stopping until the entire story has been told.” Nevertheless, he did not persist. By 2004 the web site was abandoned and in 2005 the wilcofilm.com domain registration was not renewed.
Before he quit the project, Sam Jones contributed over 40,000 words to his filmmaker’s diary. Quite an effort! It would have been cool if he would have seen it through, but even in an incomplete state, it’s a really cool achievement. Inquiries to Jones were not immediately returned. We’re reprinting it here.
October 26, 2000
This film began with an idea and a letter. The idea was that a band that I really loved was probably in the studio recording their fourth record, and there should really be a movie about that. The letter, once I tracked down his address, was sent to the band’s manager, Tony Margherita. It said, in many more words, basically the same thing. But everything that happened next was probably largely a result of those many more words, because they had a conviction that has carried me through the project. I wrote in the letter that I believe Wilco is a band that will stand the test of time. Like The Band, the Clash, Big Star, the Velvet Underground, and Bob Dylan, Wilco makes dense, emotional, timeless records that will keep being discovered by new generations of music lovers.
November 3, 2000
I received a phone call from Tony Margherita, Wilco’s manager, who told me that the idea sounded very promising, and that Jeff Tweedy and Tony would like me to fly to Chicago to meet them. I asked Tony about the schedule and he informed me that the band was about 30% into the making of the new record, tentatively titled “Here Comes Everybody,” and that they were recording entirely in their Chicago loft with no producer or record company personnel present. We talked more about what the band would be doing for the next year, and it seemed very feasible that I would be able to get the whole record-making process on film. Tony suggested I fly to Chicago the next week to talk.
Directed by Seth Henrikson. From Warm, due November 20.
Jeff Tweedy knows his audience. After all, he was once one of us. His only job outside of being in a band was as a record store clerk, so he understands well the things that set us off. The lead-off video for his upcoming solo album is a quick bit of catnip for folks like us. It starts with a norm-core version of Tweedy–replete in polo shirt, sweater and “haircut”–walking in to what we think is just a quick trim and probably neck clean-up. Instead, it’s the antithesis to “Almost Cut My Hair,” a freak flag anthem dating back more than 45 years.
What’s more, norrm-o Tweedy is serenaded by real Tweedy who uses the occasion to show off all of the double-neck guitars he has…and we don’t. It’s exactly what I would do in his shoes, and so would you.
The song itself is catchy enough. It’s a cool little mid-tempo cruiser punctuated with some 12-string almost-solos. Again, totally my thing.
According to liner notes written by George Saunders and published by The New Yorker, “”Jeff told me once that what he’s trying to communicate to his listener is, ‘You’re O.K. You’re not alone. I’m singing to you, but I also hear you.'”
Well, we hear you too. And we reply with a resounding, “One of us! One of us! One of us!”