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Critique on Wilco column

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by I Should Coco, Sep 29, 2011.

  1. I Should Coco

    I Should Coco Well-Known Member

    Hello ... I've never tried this on SportsJournalists.com, but wasn't happy with how this column came out and thought this might be a place for feedback.

    I was trying to balance a "review" of Wilco's new album, "The Whole Love," with commentary on how "Nevermind" wasn't the only milestone album that came out roughly 20 years ago. The idea sounded great, but as I struggled to write this, I feel like I did a crappy job of both and should have stayed with one or the other.

    Anyway, thanks for reading this -- and please feel free to offer constructive criticism.

    Art of Almost, 20 years later

    A new rock album came out Tuesday, and I went to the record store to buy it.

    Twenty years ago, no one would have given that sentence a second thought. All the new music hit the record stores on Tuesdays, with some stores having midnight album release parties, so fans could listen to (and buy) their favorite band’s newest music as soon as possible.

    Today, marking an album’s release date on the calendar, heading out to The Long Ear to buy it, then putting it in your CD player or on your turntable ASAP can only mean one thing:

    You’ve got “The Whole Love,” baby. But more on Wilco’s new album in a moment.

    • • •

    A new rock album came out Tuesday, and I went to the record store to buy it.

    In the early 1990s, a groundbreaking album did hit the record stores, and many of us college-rock fans realized it would start a whole new genre of music.

    “Nevermind” by Nirvana? Yeah, that was released in fall of 1991 ... along with a music video where a three-piece band from Seattle plays a loud-soft-loud song in a school gym. You might have seen it a few hundred times on MTV. And by the end of the video, the kids go bananas and smash all their Poison and Motley Crue records.

    Kurt Cobain and the grunge rock that followed in his wake were a huge deal in the early 90s, upending the era of hair-spray metal bands and cheesy power ballads. But by the time Cobain died less than three years later, his musical movement was co-opted by big business and trademarked as “Alternative Rock.” Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. The long, cold winter of Bush and Limp Bizkit were just around the corner.

    The album I’m talking about here — Uncle Tupelo’s debut, “No Depression” — also changed music, but in a way that can be still be heard today. More than 20 years after its release, Uncle Tupelo’s alt-country mix of punk-rock attitude and acoustic instruments can still be heard in the music of The Decemberists, Mumford and Sons, Brandi Carlile, Ray LaMontagne ... and of course, Wilco.

    Uncle Tupelo began as a trio of high school buddies — Jay Farrar, Jeff Tweedy and Mike Heidorn — from the dying industrial town of Belleville, Ill. They liked punk rock such as the Minutemen and the Clash, but also dug old-school country anthems by the Carter Family, Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie.

    Their songs such as “Graveyard Shift,” “Train” and “So Called Friend” could peel paint in the college-town dives they played around the Midwest, as Farrar and Tweedy harmonized about the dead-end prospects of their hometown and others like it while blasting away at power chords.

    What made Uncle Tupelo different, though, was the mellow tunes, such as the debut album’s title track, a cover of the Carter Family anthem from the dark days of the 1930s.

    Uncle Tupelo never achieved the widespread fame and fortune of Nirvana, and coincidentally, broke up around the time of Cobain’s suicide in April 1994. Farrar and Tweedy went their separate ways, adding fans to the Tupelo die-hards through their bands Son Volt and Wilco. Which brings us back to ...

    • • •

    A new rock album came out Tuesday, and I went to the record store to buy it.

    So, is “The Whole Love” any good? Well, if you’ve read this far, you’re probably an indie rock and/or alt-country fan, and there’s plenty to love about the new Wilco album for both camps.

    The opener, “Art of Almost,” features a trippy three minute ending that would fit right in among the songs on “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” Wilco’s best-known album from 2001. Come to think of it, this space-age jam led by guitarist Nels Cline would fit in just fine on the early Genesis album, “Foxtrot” ... and I mean that as a complement.

    Other highlights include the relatively straightforward, garage band songs “I Might” and “Dawned on Me,” good examples of Tweedy’s improvement as a singer since his somewhat screechy days in Uncle Tupelo. “Born Alone,” with its fadeout jam of descending chords, and “Standing O” show these 30- and 40-somethings can still kick out the jams.

    For fans of Wilco’s occasional mellow-country vibe, “Black Moon” and the album’s final three songs harken back to the band’s beginnings. The acoustic songs flavored by steel guitar and strings remind me of Wilco’s laid-back first album, “A.M.”

    Tweedy’s longtime Wilco bandmate John Stirrat — the only one who’s been along since the beginning — provides bass lines that jump out of the speakers throughout “The Whole Love,” particularly on the last song, “One Sunday Morning.” The reflective words from Tweedy are backed by two distinct layers of sound — the soft percussion, acoustic strumming and piano of Uncle Tupelo accompanied by the electronic jingle and sheen that only Wilco can provide.

    It’s a fitting finale that shows how Tweedy — and just as importantly, his fans — can still love the sounds of the past 20 years while moving ahead toward a musical future.

    (I Should Coco) is a copy editor at (the Podunk Press) who first heard Uncle Tupelo on the University of Iowa’s college radio station, KRUI, roughly 20 years ago. Email him at (address).

    YGBFKM Guest

    Just stumbled across this. I enjoyed reading that.

    I just went back and listened to Art of Almost. Nels is insane on that the last couple of minutes. Great stuff.

    As for Uncle Tupelo, I didn't discover them until the early 2000s, and it was a rvelation to say the least. It was a time in my life I needed to connect with something, and that music provided a positive outlet in that sense.

    Life Worth Living, Inheritance, Steal the Crumbs and New Madrid are staples of the compilation CDs I make for my commute. I can still remember listening to Anodyne the first time and thinking, "I've never heard anything like this."

    Every piece of good music I've discovered in the past decade can be traced directly to first hearing Uncle Tupelo and veering off the music path I had been on the previous 20 years.
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