By Erik Hage
was going to resist writing about the new, self-titled Wilco
album, but Seth Rogen referencing the band in Funny People
cemented it for me: Something has to be said. Wilco, a
band I have ardently followed since their inception in 1995—and
a band who were one of my favorites until early in the millennium—have
come to represent something that makes me uncomfortable. A
Wilco reference itself—as Funny People attests—has
become a point of light in the hip constellation for 30- to
40-somethings. (Right jeans? Check. Right shoes? Check. 401k?
Check. Wilco and Death Cab for Cutie in the disc changer?
I’m not trying to be flippant or join a backlash, and I think
that the Wilco album is an OK-to-good album, but Jeff Tweedy
and company have ascended to their current “important band
of the decade” status via some disingenuous discursive practices
in our culture—beginning with 2002’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
and the documentary heralding its creation (and attendant
record- company drama), I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.
The story of Wilco’s success existed long before Wilco.
It is the classic band-pushing-artistic-boundaries-up-against-Goliath-record-company
tale. Wilco were mashed into the narrative and came out of
the experience as “It Band” of the new millennium.
it remains a messy notion that 1999’s Summerteeth was
a better album, and every bit as “experimental” in its own
way. The critical hoopla around YHF reminded me of
the reaction to Lucinda Williams’ Car Wheels on a Gravel
Road—another good, not great album that was treated like
the second coming because a cadre of music critics and buyers
missed the boat when she released her real masterpiece, Sweet
Old World, years earlier. The fact is that every album
since the magnificent Summerteeth has represented diminishing
returns while Wilco’s mystique and commercial power grows
larger and larger.
Look: I’m not a hater; I’ve loved this band. I’ve seen Wilco
and Jeff Tweedy solo in concert several times over the years.
I wrote Jeff Tweedy’s All Music Guide bio (which the
Egg was kind enough to plagiarize during his show there).
Long before moving back upstate, I figuratively banged on
the door of No Depression magazine until they took
me on as a writer, simply because I was inspired by the music
that was coming from that genre—in particular Wilco’s Being
The music on Wilco does not stand up, however. “You
Never Know” is infectious enough, tapping into early 1970s
George Harrison. The song “Wilco” is a very cheeky, very smart
joke but not much as a song— and would have remained in the
vaults in previous years. The twee and obvious “You and I”—sung
with Feist —is sure to become the make-out song for indie-rockers
everywhere, but I could go a lifetime without hearing it again.
“Bull Black Nova” reminds us that Jeff Tweedy is a proggy
innovator (and currently has on his payroll some of the finest
musicians to see that vision out), while the powerful, burning
build of “One Wing” seems to be the one track I can genuinely
get behind. I can appreciate the ethos behind Wilco—that
is, a band known for statements saying, here’s no statement
at all; here is our record. But where are the great songs
to justify the adjectives, aphorisms, and four stars that
Rolling Stone and others throw at it?
away from Wilco, a new compilation, Factory Records:
Communications 1978-1992, culls songs from one of
the most compelling independent record labels in history.
The Manchester, England, imprint gave us Joy Division/New
Order and the Happy Mondays, and a bunch of lesser-known,
engaging and strange bands such as the Durutti Column, Cabaret
Voltaire, and A Certain Ratio. This was where techno, club
vibes ran straight up against experimental, postpunk rock
(a fusion that a lot of bands are sawing away at these days).
Hearing all of these songs on one collection really paints
a stirring portrait of the Factory history, though one of
the essential components of buying the vinyl Factory Re cords
in the day was experiencing the sleek, minimalist graphic
design, which is very much a part of the experience.
I suppose this is an unfair qualm in the era of digital downloads,
but my complaint about the price is not: Thirty dollars is
hefty, especially because the track listing is heavy on Joy
Division and New Order—and presumably anyone drawn to this
collection would already have most of that. The obscurities
are really what this is about, though: Check out the icy reggae
of X-O-Dus’ “English Black Boys,” the murderous, skewed buzz
of Section 25’s “Girls Don’t Count,” the Durutti Column’s
remastered and gorgeously chiming “Sketches for Summer,” and
the John Robie remix of Cabaret Voltaire’s club gem “Yashar.”
Using iTunes, one can piece together their own (cheaper) collection
of Factory Records obscurities—a much better way to go.
from the historically resonant to an artist sure to be tossed
on the trash heap of history, Daughtry continue to
bring the world the most vile, base form of radio-ready rock
out there. Leave This Town lacks even a single hook
and is composed of some of the most dopey, glaring-at-you-while-I-make-sweet-love-to-you
songs you’re bound to hear this year. Here, the brooding bald
one vacillates between skanky, hyperprocessed power ballads
and amorphous Today’s Rock-format drek. I know it’s like shooting
apples in a barrel to critique this, but acts like this risk
throwing commercial rock radio even deeper into the shitter
than it already is.
Daughtry is/are so loathsome that he/they make potty-mouth,
club-kid chanteuse Amanda Blank sound downright dignified.
And on I Love You, she fronts a heady set of Jell-O-shot-and-body-spray
electronica. There’s much to dismiss here, but “Shame on Me”
is a dead-great and downright infectious club hit whose DNA
can be traced right back to Factory Records and New Order.