By Chris Moore:
We’ve all heard the term “deep track,” used to refer to songs that do not receive much (or any) commercial radio airplay. This series is dedicated to going deep into the CD racks to bring you brief but focused reports on ALBUMS that have not received as much commercial or critical attention as they should.
RELATED LAPTOP SESSIONS: Chris – “Box Full of Letters”
A.M. by Wilco
This is an album that seems to get universally hated on. It is Wilco’s first album, released in 1995 following the breakup of the alt.country band Uncle Tupelo. All of Tupelo’s members except Jay Farrar became Wilco and proceeded to record an album of songs that sound very similar to Tupelo’s work with one significant difference — they sound somewhat more together, less raw than your average Uncle Tupelo tracks.
Reception? Well, fans and critics alike appear to have agreed that Jay Farrar’s new band, Son Volt, released a superior debut album. To be fair, I have only heard selected tracks from the Son Volt release and I do understand the inevitability of comparisons between Son Volt and Wilco. Still, I haven’t been overly impressed with what I’ve heard from Son Volt. (Please, send your letters and complaints care of Chris at Laptop Sessions!) Yes, A.M. is a pretty simple rock record. No, songs like “I Must Be High” and “Passenger Side” aren’t going to win any lyrical accolades with lines like “You’re pissed that you missed the very last kiss” and “You’re gonna make me spill my beer if you don’t learn how to steer,” respectively. Even Jeff Tweedy expressed disatisfaction with the straightforwardness of the record, and he was among the first to suggest that this was Wilco “treading some water with a perceived audience.”
Okay, but it’s a fun record! Anyone who is familiar with Wilco’s catalog now knows that, from the second album on, the band became progressively more experimental and interested in making great records. A.M. is breath of fresh rock’n roll air! Not until 2007’s Sky Blue Sky would their sound be as compositionally straightforward again, and as much as I love all the albums in between, isn’t the cliche “variety is the spice of life”? I never skip these tracks when they come up on random and I continue to be drawn in by tracks like the catchy “Box Full of Letters,” the heart-breaking “Should’ve Been in Love,” and the haunting “Dash 7.” (I’m excited that I finally figured out that “Dash 7” refers to, as Wikipedia states, “The de Havilland Canada DHC-7 [airplane], popularly known as the Dash 7.”)
So, contrary to the press it received, I would highly recommend you pick up a copy of A.M. today. It’s not their best album, but who cares? And please, for crying out loud, ignore the genre nonsense altogether — alt.country, country rock, rock’n roll, alternative rock??? — and just enjoy the music!