Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Trying to Break Your Heart

The other day, I watched Sam Jones's documentary about Wilco, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart. It was really well done—a great piece of cinema verite, as one of my friends noted, a window into how music is created, how band members relate to one another, how the business works, and even some peeks into a rock star's personal life. Jeff Tweedy comes across as a pretty genuine human being; Jay Bennett as something of an ass. Watching the credits, though, I did note that many of the best songs featured in the film were co-written by Bennett. I think the band probably has lost something since his departure, though who knows how long they could have continued to work together without his leaving.

The movie has sent me back to my Wilco discs. These days I find that I tend to listen only to the cream I have skimmed off the albums and put on to my iPod, so I've enjoyed going back to the full collections. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot never gets old, but it's interesting to listen to after having heard the proto-versions of the songs in the film. Being There has seemed spotty to me in the past, but now I'm reminded of its bounty, all the treats squirreled away in its corners. I had never liked Sky Blue Sky much—the prettiness of its guitar solos turned me off, and the lyrics seemed too goofy and earnest—but it's growing on me, especially the first five songs.

A few Wilco-related links: Jay Bennett speaks at length, somewhat self-servingly, about his time with the band. And, as a way of contrasting the fortunes of Tweedy and former Uncle Tupelo comrade Jay Farrar, the Wikipedia entries on Wilco and Son Volt. Finally, two well-written reviews of Sky Blue Sky, one negative, one positive.

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