The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, March 05, 1997, Page 9, Image 9

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    —_ _ __
Band plays tribute to its punk-country influences
By Ann Stack
Music Critic
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Sometimes
a band comes along that gives you a
reason to believe in rock ‘n’ roll again.
Even if it is a country(ish) band.
Wilco, the countrified pop-rock
darlings of the press as of late, played
to a packed house at the Blue Note in
Columbia, Mo., last Friday night and
gave the crowd its hope in the future
of music — and an orgasmic near-re
ligious experience to boot.
By now, you probably already
know the story (and the chords are just
the same.) You probably know about
Uncle Tupelo and the four albums
those young country-punksters from
Belleville, 111., put out in the early
1990s. You may know about the nasty
“breakup” and the resulting two bands
—the Jay Farrar-led Son Volt and Jeff
Tweedy’s Wilco. You’re probably even
aware that both Wilco and Son Volt
released albums in 1995, “A.M.” and
“Trace,” respectively.
You also probably know that last
October Wilco released “Being
There,” the critically-acclaimed fol
low-up to **?t.M ”“*‘Befng There” is,
at base level, 19 songs spanned over
77 minutes and two CDs. Those are
the facts — but then there’s the mu
Being Influenced
Maybe it’s got something to do
with the name of the album, but lis
tening to “Being There” is like Jeff
Tweedy thumbing through his child
hood record collection with you. The
album contains nods to his influences
— he even quotes directly from Pere
Ubu guitarist Peter Laughner’s song,
“Amphetamine,” on “Misunder
There are obvious comparisons
that can be made: The Rolling Stones,
I 1 . • ' ~~ "
the Beach Boys, Gram Parsons and the
Replacements come immediately to
mind. Wilco bassist John Stirratt said
there was something to that, although
it wasn’t a conscious effort to re-cre
ate a certain sound.
“We probably only really refer
enced one tune, ‘Outta Mind (Outta
Sight),”’ he said. (Not to be confused
with disc one’s “Outtasite (Outta
Mind)” the band’s first single.)
“We tried to do the Phil Spector
kind of thing. That’s the only one
where we went in and consciously
tried to build a wall of sound ... albeit
a very thin wall,” he said.
“We didn’t consciously say, ‘Let’s
try to sound like the Kinks on this
one,”’ he said. “Everything on this
record was made in such a scattered
fashion. I didn’t really see a theme to
it until we got home.”
Being Tweedy
“Being There” acts as kind of a
guidepost, road music through a time
in the life of a songwriter. In particu
lar, a songwriter named Jeff Tweedy.
The album starts off with “Misunder
stood,” an eclectic 6'/2-minute Angst
ballad that’s alternately dissonant and
plaintive, with a light piano track
overlaid on top of some mean guitar
chords. At the end of the song, Tweedy
spits out, “I’d like to thank you all for
nothing at all”
There’s the poppy, radio-friendly
“Outtasite” and “I Got You (At The
End of the Centuiy),” as well as the
jubilant, hom-infused tribute to rock
jealousy “Monday/’ And as a cowboy
hat tip to some of the music that in
spired them, there’s the twangy “For
get The Flowers.” And that’s just the
first disc.
The second disc kicks off with
“Sunken Treasure,” where Tweedy
croons in his raspy tenor, “Music is
my savior/I was maimed by rock ‘n’
roll/I was tamed by rock ‘n’ roll/I got
my name from rock ‘n’ roll.”
That verse neatly captures the
theme of the album — a man trying
to make a break from his rock ‘n’ roll
heritage, his whole adult life. He tries
to sever the bonds and make music less
important in his life. But he finds out,
in the end, he’s still enmeshed in it.
“Someone Else’s Song,” a brood
ing, acoustic track, could be a meta
phor for the music industry as a whole
— the pointlessness of saying what’s
been said before. The raucous “King
pin” follows. Then there’s the sexy,
loungy “Was 1 In Your Dreams,”
where a laid-back Tweedy purrs right
into the listener’s ear.
The ending note on the album is a
live in-studio cut, a loose, jam-style
rocker called “Dreamer in My
Dreams.” He’s come to terms with his
music and is in a place where there’s
no depression.
Being a Band
On “Being There,” Stirratt played
the violin and piano as well as the
bass. Although he wrote and sang a
track on “A.M.,” (the hauntingly
beautiful “It’s Just That Simple,”)
Tweedy wrote all the material for this
“The band is pretty much Jeff’s
deal all the way,” he said. “It’s not very
much of a democracy when it comes
to songwriting, which I think we all
knew going into it. But I think on this
record he had a fanatic type of idea of
exactly how he wanted it to be.”
Stirratt played on Uncle Tupelo’s
final album, 1994’s “Anodyne,” along
with Tupelo veteran and Wilco drum
mer Ken Coomer. Keyboardist and
guitarist Jay Bennett joined Wilco
during the “A.M.” tour, and pedal
steel guitarist Bob Egan rounds out the
band, having replaced multi-instru
mentalist Max Johnston.
Being Country j
Wilco has become the poster band I
for the recent insurgent-country move- ,
ment, a hybrid that dances along the I
borders between rock and country and \
includes such groups as Whiskeytown,
the Jayhawks, Old 97s and Blue
Mountain (fronted, incidentally, by j
Stirratt’s twin sister, Laurie.) “Being j
There” may still have one boot in the I
banjo, so to speak, but the live show 1
is a straight-on rock spectacle. M
“I haven’t had this feeling of want
ing to just prove we’re a country
band,” Stirratt said. “I mean, our in
fluences are pretty obvious—the pop
influence is a big deal. I think maybe
we didn’t play as much pop on the last
tour as we did this time around and
that maybe we had something to prove
in that respect.”
Being Successful
Besides having a video on MTV i
and VH-1, Wilco was scheduled to J
appear on “120 Minutes” last Sunday,
rhe interview has been taped but
lasn’t aired yet. And on April 17, the
band will be on “The Late Show With
David Letterman.”
Wilco (which is radio-speak for
“will comply”) will tour Europe* dur
ing the rest of March and most of April
and will do a string of West Coast
dates when it returns.
Wilco is a band that makes no j
apologies for its influences and leaves j
interpretations of “Being There” up to 1
the listener. The songs are short vi- I
gnettes of life that everyone can relate I
to, packed in with strong musician- w
ship and none of the pretentious rock
ego. Wilco didn’t make the same
record twice; it simply covered all its
bases by laying out its influences for
the world to see.
And even though Uncle Tupelo is
no longer, fans can take heart — they
got a few wonderful bands from the
Photo courtesy or Reprise Records
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