By Chris Moore:
It’s no secret that I’ve been going through a Wilco phase recently. And, by phase, I mean that I wasn’t really familiar with the band until a couple months ago. I had read about the band a bit in music magazines, and I had read quotes by band frontman Jeff Tweedy, which I generally found interesting. So, I finally found a copy of their critically acclaimed Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album and decided to give it a spin.
And instantly loved it.
Ever since, I’ve been listening to alot of other music, but I’ve gone back to Wilco every time. In the past two months, I’ve gone on an odyssey to discover as much about them as possible. This has involved reading Wikipedia posts, skimming music magazines, and browsing through numerous CD store racks and used album bins. In the process, I’ve found affordable copies of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot‘s predecessor, Summerteeth (which is the origin of the song I just added to the members-only section, which you should definitely check out soon!), and their first album, A.M.
Now, it’s not that Wilco is my new favorite band of all-time, by any means. But there is a certain excitement that accompanies fresh territory, striking out into a land that is unusual and can present unexpected ideas, sounds, etc. For instance, I learned all about Uncle Tupelo — a band I had heard OF but had never actually HEARD — because Uncle Tupelo, minus one member, became the first incarnation of Wilco.
But, I guess that’s a story for another time.
Suffice it to say that Uncle Tupelo is credited with founding the “alt-country” genre that I didn’t even know existed until recently. As Tweedy progressed, he became more and more experimental with his music, particularly after the first couple Wilco albums. He seems like an interesting musical figure to me, as he embodies that rock songwriter ideal; he has made some great music, and from many reports, he can be a bit of a jerk. For instance, members of Wilco have been essentially summarily dismissed to make way for new musicians with new sounds to bring to the process. While this may not make for pleasant interpersonal relationships, it has certainly made for some interesting musical variations and evolution in the band.
When I think of this song and this album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, in particular, I am reminded, to a degree, of some of the classic albums that have initially been criticized or even rejected by record company executives. In this case, the hype surrounding the making of the album seems to have only aided and increased its eventual popularity. Essentially, as Wilco recorded this album, but the powers-that-be needed to make some cuts at the label, so they released the band. There are several conflicting stories, but the end result is that Wilco got to keep the recordings and rights to the then-new material, going on to another division of Warner Bros. to officially produce and release the album. This caused a bit of a stir in the record industry at the time — particularly the public perception of the label’s treatment of this fairly longstanding act — and even though I wasn’t nearly as interested in music industry news as I am now, I remember something about this at the time.
The track I chose for tonight is the opening song, “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.” For better or worse, my version does not do justice to the studio version, which you should definitely listen to; for that matter, you should definitely listen to the album! But, when I discovered that Jeff Tweedy does an acoustic version of this song in his acoustic sets, I couldn’t resist. It’s a great song that sets the tone remarkably well for the album to follow.
I hope you enjoy my version and that you hurry back in the next couple days for Jeff and Jim.
See you next session!