Tuesday, May 25, 2004

My friend Rob lent me his copy of the Wilco documentary I Am Trying To Break Your Heart. It does a good job of avoiding the pomposity of Rattle & Hum (though the explanation of why Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is so stellar is pretty vague) or the insufferable bitching of Meeting People Is Easy and photographer Sam Jones gets some enjoyable images. However, the film did nothing to alter my belief that Wilco is above all else a studio band. I could see enjoying them in a bar while sitting down, but I found them stodgy and interminable (boring us doesn't equal "challenging" us, Mr. Tweedy) when they headlined an outdoor festival in town over a year ago (though my inebriated, heartbroken state may have affected my judgement). My current flip description of the group is "John Mellencamp meets Can" and without the freedom to overdub and finesse their songs only lift off through standard, Kenny Aaronoff ways (and when it comes to stage presence, Tweedy is no Coog).

The other thing I realized while watching the film is that I am, without a doubt, a Wilco fan. Tweedy's songs are strong enough to resonate on voice and guitar alone; when coupled with off-kilter, playful arrangements they become astounding. I can understand why intelligent urbanites from Robert Christgau to Michael Daddino are put off by Tweedy's midwesterberg mewl (I myself am unable to cotton to restrained will'o'wisps from Nick Drake to the Snow Patrol), but to ignore the band's beauty and evolution entirely seems unconscionably willful (unless you're a Jay Farrar die-hard, in which case we will never see eye to eye). Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was touched by the self-aware crippling of the "innovative genius" tag and I have no reason to believe that the upcoming A Ghost Is Born will remedy that dilemma, but you're not going to hear me ripping on these guys any time soon.

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