Friday, March 7th, 2003
Such Great Heights
If the Traveling Wilburys were, say, the Justice League of musical supergroups, then the Minus Five could rank as, oh, the Doom Patrol. And the Postal Service… Rip Hunter and the Time Masters? Hmm, okay, this metaphor just died a slow, painful, gurgling death.
I love this Postal Service disc. Combining 80s New Wave songwriting with Ben Gibbard’s heart-on-sleeve unabashedly romantic lyrics and vocals and grafting it all onto some truly catchy IDM-esque electronic backing tracks, and you’ve got a pretty damned unique record. My main beef with most electronic music is that it lacks that human element that give pop obsessives like myself something to connect to – not a problem here. For no particular reason, this record makes me think of this movie, Electric Dreams. It was about this nerdlinger guy (this was the 80s, before nerds were cool) who finds himself competing for the girl of his dreams with his computer. The soundtrack was by Phil Oakey, of the Human League. The main theme song of the film, “Together In Electric Dreams”, was great – especially its use over the closing scenes. It’s weird to use describe something from a forgettable 80s comedy as such, but it was a really uplifting and exhilirating scene. Or at least it is in my head, and that’s how I’ll choose to remember it. The point of this? That’s how this record makes me feel. Exhilirated and uplifted. And grammatically inept. The Human League connection is just gravy.
I’ll bet that 80% of sales for The Minus Five’s Down With Wilco will be because of the title and what it implies. Namely, that Wilco is all over this disc – which they are – but it’s not immediately obvious. First, some brief history. The Minus Five is a side-project principally involving Scott McCaughy of the Young Fresh Fellows” and Peter Buck, professional plane trasher and guitarist for R.E.M.. They’re occasionally (and on this occasion) joined by ex-Posie Ken Stringfellow, and for this go-around, all of Wilco. This is most obvious in Jeff Tweedy’s backing vocals and the one time he takes lead vox. It’s interesting to hear Tweedy’s rasp alongside the smoothness of Stringfellow’s voice – a real contrast in styles. What you’ll find on Down With Wilco is a set of very sharp, polished pop songs pretty far removed from Wilco’s ragged glory. They are the backing band and perform admirably, but you won’t sit up and go, “Man, that was SO Wilco!”. I have to bite my tongue to keep a Golden Smog comparison from coming out – whil you definitely get the sense that everyone involved is having a great time the same way you do on the Smog records, the musical content is considerably less rootsy, more sophisticated and a good deal weightier in lyrical content. Down With Wilco isn’t an essential record, but it’s a solid effort from some real heavyweights.
Watched The Last Castle tonight. It was okay, not the worst way to spend a Friday evening. But not, I suspect, the best. Robert Redford is looking muy craggy these days.
Finally – I have a notice from the post office that I have to pay duty to pick up a package in their care tomorrow. My guitar neck has arrived! I was getting worried that I was going to be out $140 with nothing to show for it. Looks like I get to dismantle my axe again!
np – The Flying Burrito Brothers / The Gilded Palace Of Sin