Thursday, May 31, 2007

Wilco

Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, one of the smartest guys in music, was recently interviewed by The Onion's A.V. club about the release of Wilco's new record, Sky Blue Sky. Tweedy seems like such a smart, level, cool guy--even his philosophy (or non-philosophy) of guitar solos is cool:

AVC: We had a debate on our website recently about whether guitar solos are lame. Judging by Sky Blue Sky, you seem to be very much pro-guitar-solo.

JT: I'm pro music. Guitar solos in general aren't one way or the other. There's good ones and there's bad ones. There are reasons for them that are legitimate, and reasons that aren't legitimate. I mean, it's just some fucking dude making sound with his fucking hands. [Laughs.] I don't really see how there could be a debate. And not just guitar solos, but all solos, dating back a long, long time. It's just a way for people to express themselves with an instrument. How could I argue with it?

AVC: I think the broader issue in the debate is tight songcraft vs. loose jamming. In your career, you seem to keep moving toward loose jamming.

JT: I understand that it's fun for people to draw those lines in the sand. I don't see why, as a band, you can't pursue both. I don't really feel like it's productive to box yourself in. Anything musical, the whole fun of it is not knowing what's best or what's right. That's one of the reasons I'm making music and not working at a university or in an office. I don't have to come up with a coherent philosophy. I don't have to establish a set of rules that has to be adhered to. I wake up every day and kind of do whatever I choose.

Wilco's new record may turn out to be like the last four or so Wilco records for me. It will take me a while to love it. It all started with A.M., their first record after Uncle Tupelo split into Wilco and Son Volt, two incredible bands. A.M. is the great lost Rolling Stones record, and it is still one of my all-time favorites. My students liked it, I liked it...hell, my DAD liked it.

Then Wilco released Being There, a double disc. I bought it right after it came out, and I was disappointed with the first listen. And the second. Then, one day while I was out mowing my lawn, I really listened the "The Lonely 1" for the first time, and I almost started crying. I finally GOT the record, and I love it still.

Then Wilco released Summerteeth. God, I HATED it when I first bought it. All I could think was, WTF? It sounded like the Beach Boys met the Cure for a one-off collaboration. I was about to sell the record to a used CD store when I did what I usually do with a record I know I should like but I don't yet. I listen to it over and over at least six times. It doesn't always work. I still don't get Radiohead's Kid A. But it worked with Summerteeth, and I still think it is my favorite Wilco record.

Then Wilco released Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I was so excited about this one I downloaded it illegally months before it came out on record. And I hated it. For months. Then my friend Mark and I went to see Wilco at Bumbershoot while they were touring on YHF. We were ten feet from the stage, and it was a magical experience (the second best concert I've been to, behind Elvis Costello in his last date with the Attractions.) I love that record now.

I have yet to love A Ghost is Born or Sky Blue Sky, but I know it will come. So far, all Wilco records are just far enough ahead of my expectations that I need to catch up a little before I get it. Contrast this with Weezer records, which sound bitchin' the first time you hear them, but a week later you are sick of them. While some art/artists are WAY ahead of their time (Citizen Kane, Big Star), Wilco is always just a little ahead of its time, making complex music that never gets old, always stays new.

Read the entire Jeff Tweedy interview here.

4 comments:

MC said...

I hear you, I think I expressed my disappointment with Sky Blue Sky so far, but yesterday I listened to it all the way through agian...and you know what it sounded better. I had trouble with Summerteeth as well, but A Ghost Is Born had a few tracks that drew me in right away. That being said, I still skip some tracks on that one though.

You should get the new Rufus Wainwright I wonder what you'd think of it, it might possibly be overproduced, but I like it anyway.

collin said...

You hated Yankee Hotel Foxtrot? "I am Trying to Break Your Heart" didn't hook you like a hopeless halibut?

Anywho, there is a mostly excellent chapter about Jeff Tweedy In Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas. I'd let you borrow it but I left it in Alaska. So instead I'll just recommend it.

The McGuffin said...

When you were listening to Being There while mowing the lawn, were there two guys...ah forget it, old joke.

There seems to be a major running theme of initial dislike of every Wilco album that comes out. I think you love them so much, with each new album release you seem to have a "Sideways" great expectations thing going on. Disappointed at first...then after awhile you love it.

I must admit, I'm not as familiar with Wilco...you must burn me some offerings...

Eric said...

To Pat: I read a review that called SBS "Dad Rock," and that seemed to describe it a little too well. It sounded like it would fit well between Tom Petty and The Wallflowers, and that is not a compliment. I heard a few samples off the Rufus album, and it sounded a little too "cabaret" for me.

To Collin: I liked the songs, but the noise really turned me off "YankeeSCREEECHhotelSCREEEECHfoxtrot" P.S. I love Chuck Klosterman.

To Rob: I see your point about the Sideways factor, but I think it just takes me a while to get used to every album. They are so different each time, I have to readjust my expectations. (I'll have to watch Sideways again). I could make you a bitchin' Wilco disc. Remind me and I'll do it next time you're over.