Friday, May 15, 2009

Wilco (The Reviews) Part 2

Every Friday until June 26th, Hightower and Jones will review an album from Wilco's catalog to celebrate Wilco's seventh studio release, Wilco (The Album) (in stores June 30th). With all formalities out of the way, let continue with...

Wilco's sophomore album is a bold step forward and brings forth a reinvention of the band's sound and critical praise.

For any band, a double album can be a costly mistake especially if the material isn't strong enough to warrant two discs. For a band to release their second album as a double album is almost ludicrous and reeks of arrogance. Wilco took a huge gamble with Being There both commercially and critically but with an album this varied and well written, it would be hard to imagine this being released in any other form than a double album.

This is the album that placed Wilco on the path of being one of the most important bands of the last decade in terms of being artists who truly believe in the art they're creating and that they're a band willing to experiment and create a new sound for themselves that bridges the old with the new. Rockers like "Monday" and "I Got You (At The End Of The Century)" stand beside country numbers such as "Far, Far Away" and "Someday Soon". Album openers "Misunderstood" and "Sunken Treasure" are chaotic in their slow-building beauty as well as being far from the Alt-Country repetoire of Wilco's debut, A.M. (read about that here). "Kingpin" helps expand upon the Country sounds of A.M. but with a hint of funkiness not reserved for a band like this.

One of the key components to this album is the instrumentation. Definitely, some of the best that the band has ever recorded. Every instrument gives each of tracks texture and depth especially on "The Lonely 1" with its use of piano, lap steel guitar and violin. This is also the first album with guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett who contributes a lot to the album with piano and his guitar solos (though not as much as he'd contribute to the two following albums). Also, this is the last album with Max Johnston, whose multi-instrumental talents would be noticeably missing on following Wilco albums.

One important thing about Being There is that Jeff Tweedy took a huge financial loss on this album. Not only is it a double album but it was a double album in a time where CDs were being priced $15 or more which made double CD sets go for $20-30. In a Tom Petty-esque move, Tweedy expressed his wish to see the album released at the cost of a single disc. A move that would be costly for the label but Tweedy agreed to cut his royalties to compensate for the label's financial loss. It was a bold and very costly move for Tweedy (supposedly, he loss up to $600,000 on this deal) but it showed that he was an artist that believed in his music and his band.

Yes, it was a crazy thought to release a double album especially as your second album. Sure, Tweedy lost hundreds of thousands of dollars just for it to be released on his terms. Still, it was a move that brought the band critical success and allowed them to spread their musical wings. Definitely, a recommended album and the beginning of some very interesting experiments to come. Join Hightower and Jones next Friday as Wilco goes Pop with Pro Tools, overdubbing and Mellotrons with their third album, Summerteeth.

Suggested Tracks:
"Far Far Away"
"Outtasite (Outta Mind)"
"Hotel Arizona"
"Say You Miss Me"
"Sunken Treasure"
"Why Would You Wanna Live"
"The Lonely 1"

Buy Being There here.

No comments:

Post a Comment