The Skip 5 Show #21: Billy Bragg & Wilco – Christ For President
From the first Mermaid Avenue (1998) collaboration album, wherein these two acts made songs out of otherwise unheard Woody Guthrie lyrics, it’s a bluegrass old school country spiritual hand clapper. Which makes sense given the content, and the man who wrote it. The instrumental bits are great, and I love the rasp on the vocals. This is a great record in full, too. You knew that already. As you were.
So it turns out that my post about the Lee Ranaldo/Dave Dyent album was the end of the Taranna December round-up! I’ve gone back and put a wee note on the post but most people don’t go back (can’t blame you), so I’m telling you here! Anyway, I’m back to covering whatever I hear as usual now.
Ah, Wilco. Can they do no wrong? This 2016 follow-up to Star Wars, their 10th album, has a name that is a nod to Harry Nilsson’s Nilsson Schilsson (cool). The interwubs says Jeff Tweedy tells stories of himself, his family, and his history on this album. I’m good with that.
Acoustic guitar-driven, more folk than indie rock, this album is feel-good Wilco awesome. There were two singles, the challenging Locator, and the Neil Young-ish If I Ever Was A Child, though they also released Someone To Lose in the run-up to release. It’s a great late-night or road trip record, get you some!
A Taranna December find…
Recorded over four nights, May 4-7, 2005 at The Vic Theatre in Chicago, this set is not just a collection of live Wilco songs. It’s a feel, a groove. It feels like it should last forever, so glad they captured this.
Yet another Taranna October find…
I already covered this one in these pages on May 29, 2007, but for whatever reason, I no longer had a copy. This one’s a replacement.
Pride Of Taranna Series Pt. 23: She Said Boom #2: Wilco – The Whole Love
I found this in the bins and discovered it only had 1 CD when it should have 2. I took it to the counter (helpfully) to point it out. The nice lady there thanked me and pulled another copy from behind the counter – one with both CDs, in a beautiful slipcase hardshell cover, and with a 53 page book too! Instant purchase. Hooray!
Wilco’s 8th album is the first on their own label. It is 12 songs of beauty and awesome, as you’ll imagine. Album opener, Art Of Almost, sounds like Wilco channeling radiohead (I know!), and then the single was I Might, a bouncy rocker. From there, it vacillates between all of Wilco’s wheelhouse sounds. A definite highlight was the album closer, One Sunday Morning (A Song For Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend), loved it.
The second CD contains all four of the iTunes bonus tracks. A song called Sometimes It Happens is listed as a deluxe edition bonus track, but does not appear here or on iTunes. Some other edition got that one, I guess. There’s also a cover of Nick Lowe’s I Love My Label as a bonus track, as if all the Wilco awesome wasn’t enough.
It’s Wilco. You know the sound, you love the sound, you need this disc. As you were (listening to Wilco)!
Hit It Or Quit It? It’s Wilco. HIT!
And here ends my Pride Of Taranna series (just in time for our next upcoming trip to Taranna! What a great pile of music I brought home from this last trip, though, eh?… All of them were Hits, in the Hit It Or Quit It series, although the Groove Armada and Kenny Wayne Shepherd are Hits for now, we’ll see if I go back to them at a later date.
Thanks so much, as ever, for Reading my blurbs on these records. Without you, I’d just be firing these blatherings pointlessly into the ether.
Quick post to register my excitement for the December 1st releases of deluxe early Wilco sets!
Check ’em out…
A.M. (1995) = Original debut album remastered, plus 8 unreleased bonus tracks. (CD, 2LP and digital)
BEING THERE (1996) = Original remastered double album, plus a disc of unreleased songs, demos and alternate takes, plus two discs of live performances! (5CD, 4LP, and digital)
Holy mackerel it’s a good time to be a fan of early Wilco. I am especially excited for Being There. I LOVE that album oh man.
Get you some!
It’s gratitude day again! As I mentioned in my Steve Vai – Passion And Warfare review, I recently received an awesomeness holidays gift from the illustrious Mike at mikeladano.com!
This Wilco record was in there too, but it’s special – it’s the Japanese import version! It has a bonus track! I know. As would we all be, I was floored.
Let’s check it out, shall we? We shall…
First off, it has a camel on the cover. I love it already.
OK, let’s go!
Wilco (The Song), a song title I love for an album opener for Wilco (The Album), is a jaunty Werewolves Of London-ish tune. Fun! Deeper Down stops and starts a lot, very gentle rocking and lots of cool instrumental jabs and interludes. For all that, it’s quite uplifting. I really liked this one!
One Wing is a haunting melody, yet still with the energy of a solid pop song. I heard shades of Radiohead in the music, the chord changes and the electronics. Bull Black Nova grooves along under a repetitive stabbing piano riff. We do get respite, but wow that gets tired quickly! The song woulda been just fine without it, though I suppose it does a measure of menace or, at least, divided attention. Get past that, though, and this song has a lot of cool stuff going on. The guitar solo is silky great.
You And I is the first time Wilco has ever featured a duet on one of their records, and it’s with Feist. It starts off strummy and builds into a dreamy, drifter of a track. The voices work well together.
You Never Know is, for lack of a better description, a typical Wilco song circa, say, Being There. It rocks, but not too hard… just right! Its lyrics are interesting, given our current times: “Come on children / You’re acting like children / Every generation thinks / Its the end of the world / And all ya fat followers / Get fit fast / Every generation thinks it’s the last / Thinks its the end of the world / Yes dream down a well / There’s a lone heavy hell / I don’t care anymore / I don’t care anymore / It’s a feeling we transcend / If we’re here at the end / I don’t care anymore / I don’t care anymore / You never know”
Country Disappeared is a gorgeous, elegiac track that left me wanting more when it was done. Solitaire continues the feel, softly and beautifully leading us through its twists and turns, with organ swells and lap steel guitar.
I’ll Fight has Motown soul while he talks about the horrible things he’ll do for you. Seriously, the music and the words here meet in jarring ways! Fascinating… Sunny Feeling is a bluesy rocker, a track I really loved. When it starts stomping, I’m lifted and gone, baby, gone!
Everlasting Everything soaks you in its rising and falling waves of tenderness and edge, with piano at the core and acoustic guitar to steady it. When the drums kick in, and then the strings, well sir, you know you’re in the presence of glory.
And that’s where the regular version of the album ends. Honestly, that’d be a lot to digest, all of it fascinating. But my version is the special Japanese import version, because that’s how Mike rolls! So I get one extra track:
Dark Neon starts off with an odd stomp but it quickly resolves into a mildly wild rocker that swaggers and swings its way through, buoyed by buzzing guitar and some damn fine bluesiness too. When it crashes to a close, it’s too damn soon. I don’t know why this didn’t make the main album!
I loved this record. Wilco gives us so many looks at the their incredible talents. Each track stands strong and makes you say ‘yes, this is beautiful and perfect.’ But then when the record is done, and you’re leaning back in your chair, the good headphones still strapped to your head, trying to collect your thoughts on everything you just heard, you realize that for as much as the songs work well alone, they also compile into one helluva winning album.
For those who love all the details, I’ve included two sections for your enjoyment:
1) This is what Jeff Tweedy said was the theme of the record (Wiki):
Tweedy summarised the main theme of the album as the acceptance of life’s uncertainties, stating:
“I think there’s a liberating nature to that concept […] It allows for a playfulness and an engagement in life that is more enjoyable than the alternative. I’ve aspired to convey some of those things for a long time now, maybe not so clearly before because it hasn’t been so clear to me. But I do believe that the greater ability you have to tolerate ambiguity, the more successfully you can steer your life. The alternative point of view—the complete dismissal of ambiguity, trying to rationalise irrationality—can be very destructive.”
This theme is manifested, for example, in the line from “Deeper Down” which goes “I adore the meaninglessness of the ‘this’ we can’t express.”
The album’s lyrics portray both dark and light subject matter, from “Bull Black Nova”, which is written from the point of view of a man who just killed his girlfriend, to the Feist duet “You and I”, which treats two lovers trying to keep a relationship together.
2) Here’s some more info (also Wiki):
Wilco (The Album)
Wilco released their seventh album, Wilco (The Album), on June 30, 2009. In March 2009, it was announced that singer-songwriter Feist would make a guest appearance on the new album, on the track “You and I”. Like their previous three albums, Wilco streamed the entirety of the album on its website prior to release. The album hit the charts at a career-high No. 4 with sales of 99,000 on the Billboard Top 200 Album chart as well as the No. 2 spot on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums chart. It marked Wilco’s third top 10 album on the U.S. pop chart. The album’s first single “You Never Know” reached the No. 1 spot on the AAA Chart, their first No. 1 in twelve years.
Beginning in April 2009, the band freely distributed a cover of Woody Guthrie’s “The Jolly Banker”, downloadable from their website. It was recorded at the Wilco loft in February of that year, at the suggestion of Guthrie’s daughter, Nora. Downloaders were encouraged to donate to the Woody Guthrie Foundation. Feist returned to accompany on the track, playing the Garden Weasel. The track eventually became unavailable for download. In October 2011, the website began streaming the track via a plugin.
On May 25, 2009, former band member Jay Bennett died in his home in Urbana, Illinois. In a prepared statement, Jeff Tweedy remarked that he was “deeply saddened” by Bennett’s death.
Feist and Wilco performed “You and I” on Late Show with David Letterman on July 14, 2009. In June during their West Coast tour, Wilco joined Beck, Feist, Jamie Lidell and James Gadson in the studio to take part in Beck’s Record Club project, covering Skip Spence’s Oar album. The first song “Little Hands” was posted on Beck’s website on November 12, 2009.
On April 6, 2010, Wilco announced during their Boston performance that they would be headlining and curating a festival in North Adams, Massachusetts, dubbed Solid Sound Festival. The event ran at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art from August 13–15, and featured various Wilco side projects, including The Autumn Defense, Pronto, The Nels Cline Singers, and Jeff Tweedy solo. Other bands who appeared included Mavis Staples, Avi Buffalo, Outrageous Cherry, Richard Bishop, The Books, and Vetiver. It also featured non-musical media, such as the Bread and Puppet Theater and comedians Todd Barry, Kristen Schaal, John Mulaney, and Hannibal Buress as well as interactive musical installations by Cline and Kotche. In November 2016, the band also curates their own program during the tenth Anniversary Edition of Le Guess Who? Festival in Utrecht, The Netherlands. This curated program includes performances by amongst others Tortoise, Bassekou Kouyaté, Lee Ranaldo, Fennesz, Steve Gunn, William Tyler and The Cairo Gang.
Wilco’s contract with Nonesuch ended in 2010 and they formed their own label. Wilco announced via their web site and Twitter page on January 27, 2011 that the new label will be called dBpm Records (Decibels per Minute) and will be run out of the offices of their manager, Tony Margherita, in Easthampton, Massachusetts.
I spent $3 for this one in Sonic Boom. It’s worth SO much more! Oh my goodness, what a record…
The 5th Annual Toronto Expedition Series, Part 35 (CD)
Easily one of my biggest scores of the Taranna trip, I absolutely fell in love with this record. I already love Wilco, but this one I’d never heard and WOW.
The band remains unafraid to try new things, dynamically exhilirating. Their music achives lift-off one minute, and gently caresses the next.
Take everything you already love about Wilco, the rock and country and ballads and indulgent creativity and keep pushing it forward. That’s this album.
I was scanning through the Upcoming/Just Announced releases on Amazon this evening, as is my wont, and I was completely excited by the discovery of this:
Wilco – Alpha Mike Foxtrot: Rare Tracks (1994-2014).
It’s a 4CD set.
That’s right. Four CDs of rare Wilco from the past twenty years!
This all ties in beautifully with the upcoming 2CD hits release:
What’s Your 20?: Essential Tracks (1994-2014)
If all of THAT doesn’t give you a boner (boy and girl boners), I just don’t know what would.
Street Date For Both Releases: November 18, 2014
Oh baby, I want these! But it’s the rare tracks I really, really want.
I’ve heard all of the Wilco albums to date, and I gotta say that for the most part, I like ‘em for what they do. I mean, somebody has to make this kind of music, and these guys are well-suited for the job. And what do they do? They tread that line between soft-rock, country and easy-listening, making the kind of stuff to which your Mom could tap her toes in the dentists’ waiting room, while still letting you feel like you’re getting something your Mom wouldn’t have heard of when you buy it at the mall.
Now hold on, Wilco fans, before you take up your pitchforks and run after me, I know that that sounds like a backhanded compliment, even an insult, but it’s totally true to me. Look, their albums are really good, for the most part. Their lyrics are interesting and insightful and poetry-like and all that good stuff. The songs are professionally played and sound-perfect. Tweedy’s voice cracks appropriately in all the calculated places.
That said, Sky Blue Sky is a rather slow Wilco album, light grooves with the occasional bust-out guitar solo to mess up the even glow, a little twang and some soul basslines mixed in. Think Eagles, Dead, The Band and a little Blue Rodeo too, playing slower songs ‘with feeling.’ I believe those fans who are in-the-know call this stuff alt-country, whatever the hell that means to them.
This would be the perfect record if you were on a road trip and, with the daylight fading, you found yourself tired of the heavier stuff you’d played all afternoon, and you were looking for something to ease you into that night’s motel parking lot. This record would cover those last few miles of the day handily.