Autumn de WildeI can’t help think that if you were to drug each member of Wilco with a different and unique blend of psychotropic drugs mixed with a 40 of tequila, blindfolded them, spun them around three times and then handed them instruments they didn’t even know how to play, they’d still ungodly tight and be able to play off each other with the instincts of a sea turtle returning to the beach form which it was spawned. This is what you get when you assemble such prodigious talents and have them tour relentlessly. This is Wilco’s blessing, and also Wilco’s curse.
It was more the latter on their last effort, 2007’s Sky Blue Sky. On that album, the band’s effortless execution combined with the simple, strummy songwriting to create a record that, save for a few jolts of expeditionary guitarwork from Nels Cline, was laid back to the point of being asleep. Their latest, Wilco (The Album), thankfully finds Jeff Tweedy out of his hammock and feeling both musically restless and playful, and the band doing its best to stir things up a bit more. What it doesn’t find, however, is much sense of edge or the band wandering into uncomfortable territory – this isn’t because they’re not adventurous or are sticking to the tried and true, but because they’re just too good. Tracks like “Bull Black Nova” may want to sound unhinged, with its insistent drone and Tweedy’s rasping scream, but there’s never a sense that Wilco are in anything less than complete control. The songwriting on Wilco (The Album) delivers more emotional range than the genial sentiments of Sky Blue Sky and while the musical accompaniment soars and swoops alongside it, even occasionally squalling, it’s too confident to even consider the possibility of crashing. Not that you necessarily want things to fall apart, but that potential for self-destruction is a fundamental part of rock’n’roll.
On the other hand, Wilco have nearly self-destructed enough in their history and there’ll never be a shortage of bands out there that sound on the verge of collapse, either in a good sense or not. Their current stability is well-earned and deserved, and when they use it to deliver records as out and out enjoyable at this, complaining is just pointless. Consider the duet between Tweedy and Leslie Feist on “You And I” – when initially announced, many believed it would be the final step in Wilco’s transformation into MOR balladeers. And while it’s certainly not going to scare anyone away, the final tune is so well-crafted and just outright lovely, that it transcends any sort of cliche. It may seem a bit much to suggest that Wilco can do no wrong – the very fact that they can’t is a sort of flaw unto itself – but it’s certainly no mistake to say that they’re doing a hell of a lot right.
Wilco are spending the remainder of the Summer in Europe, but have just announced a jaunt through the midwest in October that includes an October 14 date at Massey Hall in Toronto. Ticket info is still forthcoming, but you may notice on their website that they’re taking requests. Requests, people. I, for one, would be thrilled to hear anything old done by the current lineup because if it’s anything as good as the Being There suite they pulled out when opening for Neil Young at the ACC last December – “Red Eyed and Blue”, “I Got You” and “Outtasite (Outta Mind)” – well hell, that’s worth your price of admission right there.
Check out their readings of “Red Eyed and Blue” and “I Got You” from their 2008 five-night stand at the Riviera in Chicago with Andrew Bird guesting on whistle.
MP3: Wilco – “Red Eyed and Blue” (live in Chicago, February 2008)
MP3: Wilco – “I Got You” (live in Chicago, February 2008)
Nashville Scene talks to M Ward.
The Singing Lamb has an interview with Jenn Grant.
Arctic Monkeys have rolled out their first video from album number three, Humbug. It’s out August 25 and they’ve a date at the Kool Haus on September 29.
Video: Arctic Monkeys – “Crying Lightning”
Over at Bombsite, Dean Wareham details his process for creating the score to Andy Warhol’s …13 Most Beautiful films which Dean & Britta have been touring in support of the last while.
Artrocker talks to Amy Turrnidge, aka The Theoretical Girl, whose debut album Divided is due out August 17.
MP3: The Theoretical Girl – “Rivals”
Polarizing sister act CocoRosie will be at Lee’s Palace on September 9.
The first having sold out pretty much immediately, Metric have announced a second date at Massey Hall for October 21. And considering the following night on their calendar is still open, don’t be shocked if they announce a third.
Thao with The Get Down Stay Down have set a date at the El Mocambo for Sunday, November 1, tickets $12.00. This is exciting because it implies that I will be on a trip around then. There is a cosmic rule that I either cannot be in the city or am just leaving or returning from an exhausting trip whenever they visit. It’s true.
MP3: Thao with The Get Down Stay Down – “Beat (Health, Life and Fire)”
MP3: Thao with The Get Down Stay Down – “Swimming Pools”
MP3: Thao with The Get Down Stay Down – “Bag Of Hammers”
Update: From Scott. Oh wow. Manic Street Preachers at The Phoenix, October 4, 2009. Wow.
Hey everyone who’s ever admired or complimented the artwork that graces my masthead, courtesy of illustrator Renee Nault, head on over to Design By Humans and vote for her art to grace a run of t-shirts and get a chance to wear a lovely anthropomorphic ram nattily besuited in waterfolours for your very own.