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Happy Hippo
Aug 8, 2004

The Something Awful Forums > The Finer Arts > Batman's Shameful Secret > BSS Derailed Thread: Spider-Island


Yesterday Wilco released two, um, releases, both of which are retrospectives; the "best of" record What's Your 20? and the box set of rarities Alpha Mike Foxtrot. Wilco are probably my favorite band and I thought we should have a Wilco thread to discuss all things Wilco. So here we are.

Who the gently caress are Wilco?

Simply put, Wilco are a dad rock band. They formed 20 years ago, a twangy phoenix rising from the ashes of the now-legendary Uncle Tupelo. Here's the condensed Uncle Tupelo story; Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy were good friends as kids in school. They started a band along with drummer Mike Heidorn. Jay originally wrote all their songs but encouraged Tupelo bassist Jeff to write songs too. He did, and by the time of their first release they were splitting singer-songwriter duties evenly. They released four albums (by the time the fourth album came around Jeff moved over to second guitar and the band had expanded their lineup) and then one day Jay said, "gently caress this, I quit." The remaining lineup became the first Wilco lineup. Jeff and Jay do not speak to this day.

What do they sound like?

Their sound has shifted on pretty much every release but each record is informed by the record that preceded it. They started off as, in my opinion, nothing more than a pretty good country-rock bar band. Their first album, AM, has some really good tunes on it and sounds like the tracks Tweedy wrote for the final Uncle Tupelo record.

The sophomore release Being There is a sprawling double album that occasionally gets a bit experimental (the opening track "Misunderstood" is a good example of this), but for the most part was more of the standard fare.

Summerteeth is when I finally admitted that Wilco was onto something. It's basically a sugary pop record with a very dark streak (all those references to domestic violence) and some truly hosed up noisy moments popping up in the most unexpected places (Via Chicago). This is the sound of a songwriter truly coming into his own while trying to make a pop record that would please the label bosses. It did not please them at all and the record got very little support from the label. Which leads us to...

Their masterpiece Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. If Wilco is my favorite band then this is my favorite album. This is when people really noticed Wilco and it had as much to do with the music on the record as it had to do with bad press for the label. Much has been written about how the label hated the record, and about how the band was dropped from the label for refusing to change the record, and about how Jay Bennett was fired from the band during this time, and the entire drama is documented in the excellent documentary I Am Trying To Break Your Heart so I'll just talk about the music itself. This record has been described as "Kid A with a mortgage payment" and that'll give you an idea of what the record sounds like. It's bleak, it's mopey, it's joyous, beautiful, noisy, hosed up and challenging. This is the stoniest, most eyerollingest thing ever but you really owe it to yourself to get really high, turn off the lights and listen to this one on headphones.

A Ghost is Born was the big followup and it's another one of my favorites. It's a challenging listen to Wilco n00bs because it was written and recorded during the year leading up to Jeff Tweedy entering rehab for addiction to pain pills. It continues the experimentalism of YHF but is its own thing entirely.

Up until this point the band was constantly losing and replacing members. They finally settled onto the six man lineup the band is currently on at this point. The first record with this iteration of Wilco was Sky Blue Sky. I didn't like this one at first but as I've gotten older I've come to love it. My favorite Wilco is weird-Wilco and this is as normal as a band's sound gets. It sounds like six dudes in a room playing music. No meltdowns of guitar noise, no loops, no ghost station vocal samples, just organic songs made by guitars, bass, drums, keys and voices. This is the first studio album of theirs with Nels Cline on guitar and holy poo poo does Nels deliver the goods here.

Then came Wilco (The Album). There are some decent tracks here but overall it lacks a cohesive vision. It sounds like tracks from their earlier phases all crammed onto one disc and as a result it sounds unsure of itself. Not bad, but their weakest release.

The Whole Love is their most recent studio album. Here, the band move their sound forward while building off the past. There's folky stuff and noisy moments and it all blends together into an album that sounds like the work of a band with a unified vision. It also has what's been my favorite song these last couple of years, "One Sunday Morning (Song For Jane Smiley's Boyfriend)."

That's a very cursory look at Wilco. Feel free to post about Wilco and Uncle Tupelo and side projects like Loose Fur, the Autumn Defense, Glenn's solo records, the Billy Bragg and Minus 5 collaborations, the Tweedy record, etc.

Happy Hippo fucked around with this message at Dec 14, 2014 around 19:30

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Happy Hippo
Aug 8, 2004

The Something Awful Forums > The Finer Arts > Batman's Shameful Secret > BSS Derailed Thread: Spider-Island


Self-pity bump to post this live version of Handshake Drugs featuring Nels Cline's mindbending guitar work.

Ikari Worrier
Jul 23, 2004




Dinosaur Gum

I didn't notice this thread before. Out of curiousity, how much of the Alpha Mike Foxtrot set is devoted to the pre-Sky Blue Sky stuff? Because I'm going to be honest I have never been able to get into anything from Sky Blue Sky onward.

Mt. Modular
May 18, 2006



I'd say most of Alpha Mike Foxtrot is pre-Sky Blue Sky. It's pretty much chronological, and the set is still exploring A Ghost is Born material early in the fourth disc. I honestly like the B-Sides from the Sky Blue Sky era in the context of this set, it paints the album in a better light than it probably deserves (though I do like that album, for what its worth...). It even made me go back and listen to AM again with more appreciation than I had for it before.

If nothing else, Jeff's liner notes in the box set are pretty great.

Between the box set and Tweedy, it's been a pretty good year for Wilco fans without actually getting a new Wilco album.

Happy Hippo
Aug 8, 2004

The Something Awful Forums > The Finer Arts > Batman's Shameful Secret > BSS Derailed Thread: Spider-Island


TheNintenGenius posted:

I didn't notice this thread before. Out of curiousity, how much of the Alpha Mike Foxtrot set is devoted to the pre-Sky Blue Sky stuff? Because I'm going to be honest I have never been able to get into anything from Sky Blue Sky onward.

Almost the whole thing is pre-SBS. I'm enjoying the hell out of it.

Here's some ultra dad-rock for you: their cover of Steely Dan's Any Major Dude Will Tell You.

thathonkey
Jul 17, 2012
Probation
Can't post for 3414 days!


Shredded Hen

Thanks, didnt know about this rarities release. Looking over the track list, there is a lot of great stuff on there. Gonna pick this up asap...

Wengy
Feb 6, 2008



Am really liking this, but it's also kind of making me sad because A ghost is born is the last Wilco album I really managed to get into. My favorite remains Being there.

thathonkey
Jul 17, 2012
Probation
Can't post for 3414 days!


Shredded Hen

Wengy posted:

Am really liking this, but it's also kind of making me sad because A ghost is born is the last Wilco album I really managed to get into. My favorite remains Being there.

You should check out whole love (latest studio album). I didnt really like sbs or self-titled that much either. Whole love isnt going to touch the pre-sbs period ever in my mind but it has some great songs (including one of my favorite Wilco songs ever - last track, "one sunday morning (song for jane smiley's boyfriend)")

edit:

I was hoping Venus Stopped the Train would make it on the rarities collection but it doesn't look like it did... I think technically it is a Jay Bennett song so maybe there was some legal complication -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7S-p8ff0wB4

thathonkey fucked around with this message at Dec 2, 2014 around 13:57

Wengy
Feb 6, 2008



I do have The whole Love, and while I do like it better than the self-titled album and would agree that "One Sunday morning" is an exceptional track, I just couldn't get into it at all. "Art of almost" is very good too, but the rest seems so forgettable.

Venus is an insanely good song, agreed.

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Happy Hippo
Aug 8, 2004

The Something Awful Forums > The Finer Arts > Batman's Shameful Secret > BSS Derailed Thread: Spider-Island


Wengy posted:

I do have The whole Love, and while I do like it better than the self-titled album and would agree that "One Sunday morning" is an exceptional track, I just couldn't get into it at all. "Art of almost" is very good too, but the rest seems so forgettable.

Venus is an insanely good song, agreed.

I'd put "I Might" up there with their best moments.

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