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New York Times (to appear in Sunday's Arts & Leisure section):

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/05/arts/music/05carr.html?hpw

 

"Torture-Free but Still a Rock Star"

 

I love this part :lol

 

"Curled up in a large wicker chair by the pool, Sam said he liked the new record “a lot.” When it was suggested that he probably would not say otherwise on Father’s Day, he made eye contact for the first time. “I probably would,” he said."

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Hey everyone, here's my review of the new album, for what it's worth:

 

http://www.examiner.com/x-427-Chicago-Rock-Music-Examiner~y2009m6d29-Review-Wilco--Wilco-The-Album

 

Really well-balanced and thoughtful review. I am more keen than you on certain songs but each to their own. I'd stress that while "Wilco (The Album)" isn't their best it's a more than worthy addition to their brilliant body of work. "AM" to "WTA" over 15 years (including the "Mermaid Avenues" and "Kicking Television") is as a stretch of quality, diverse, relevant and enjoyable music which rivals that of just about any other band or artist out there over the same period or indeed in the preceding 15 years (1980-1994).

 

I am really loving everything apart from "I'll Fight" and "Country Disappeared" and have the strong sense that this will be one CD that never leaves my car this summer. I'd also argue that Jeff's singing has never been better.

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Double whammy in today's NY Times, first the longer article in the Arts & Leisure section, and this interview from the Magazine...

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/05/magazine/05fob-q4-t.html?ref=magazine

 

 

Questions for Jeff Tweedy

Rock of Ages

By DEBORAH SOLOMON

 

Some of us think of your music as mom-and-dad rock, probably because it appeals with equal magnetism to aging boomers and our teenage kids. Wilco is the only current band on which there is any consensus in my household.

That seems to happen quite a bit with this band, which is flattering. I’m not a big believer in the predestined hatred of generations.

 

Although “Wilco (The Album)” was released on Tuesday, you streamed the songs free online in May after they surfaced illegally on the Internet.

As a musician, I don’t want to expend any energy whatsoever preventing people from hearing our music. I think that’s antithetical to the idea of making it. Yes, we streamed it. Basically we set it up so people who felt guilty about stealing our music could donate some money to our favorite charity.

 

Your Chicago-based band strikes me as fundamentally Midwestern in spirit, with its earnest artistry and catchy, country-inflected sound. Do you see yourself as Midwestern?

It never meant anything to me until I traveled to the coasts and realized there are people there who don’t have any idea that anybody lives in between.

 

“Bull Black Nova,” the darkest song on your new album, is a kind of musical panic attack.

It sounds like a phone off the hook.

 

Why is the band called Wilco, which puts me in mind of an insurance company?

It means “will comply” in radio signaling and struck me as an ironic name for a rock band, which is historically responsible for not complying.

 

As a musician who has talked openly about his history of migraines and clinical depression, what can you tell us about your childhood in Belleville, Ill.?

I learned how to play solitaire when I was a little kid, and it always struck me that my mom would teach me how to play as opposed to telling me to go call somebody and get out of the house and hang out with my friends. I was very comfortable with being alone. I also think that my mother maybe just didn’t want me to be too far away.

 

You went to college in Belleville.

I went for three years, and I don’t think I have enough credits to claim myself as a first-semester freshman.

 

Did you consider a future in anything besides music?

I worked in a record store when I was growing up, and I could have seen myself doing that if I wasn’t able to make a living playing music. But, no, I really rolled the dice. I did not have a fallback position. I had one egg in my basket.

 

Your former band mate Jay Bennett died in May of an accidental overdose, just a few weeks after suing you for royalties he claimed he was owed. Do you think his claim has merit?

Jay sued me for breaching a contract we never had and for failing to pay royalties on a movie I did not produce and for which I have no financial responsibility. Jay has been paid his fair share of royalties on the songs he co-wrote — not by me, but through his own publishing, which is the way it works. So, no, I don’t believe his claim has merit.

 

I hear your older son had a bar mitzvah this year. What did you think of the process, as a non-Jew with a Jewish wife?

I was just so proud of my son — he really nailed it. I sang “Forever Young,” by Bob Dylan, and everybody cried. We have a very liberal congregation, and there’s a lot of acoustic-guitar strumming.

 

Let’s talk about your fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama, an old acquaintance of yours. Does he have any taste in music?

We had a little run-in with him on the campaign trail at a fund-raiser because he had just given a list of his favorite iPod tracks to Rolling Stone, and Wilco wasn’t on it after all of the work we’d done for him. It was iPodgate, I guess.

 

How would you describe your singing voice, in general?

Somewhere between Gordon Lightfoot and a tea kettle. I would not get past the first round of “American Idol.”

 

INTERVIEW HAS BEEN CONDENSED AND EDITED.

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Here's an excellent little review that appeared in this weekend's edition of the Sydney Morning Herald by their resident rock critic Bernard Zuel:

 

Anxiety Gives Way to Optimism

 

Wilco

Wilco (The Album)

 

Reviewed by Bernard Zuel

 

Happy Jeff Tweedy. Happy Wilco. Should we be worried?

 

Musically, the first six Wilco albums did not have a repeat switch as the band, whose only two consistent members have been signer and writers Jeff Tweedy and bass player John Stiratt, moved from alt-country through pop to art-rock and then a kind of US pastoral-rock. Emotionally though, there was one constant for five albums: a sense of anxiety.

 

It wasn't open fear, anger or moments of loathing as could be found in their British doppelgangers, Radiohead (bands matched for adventure, development and quality rather than strict musical comparisons). Instead, it was nagging concerns of a more intimate nature, sometimes projected onto a wider world.

 

Tweedy's escape from various medical and drug complications coincided with a settled band line-up on 2007's Sky Blue Sky. That line-up made an album of relaxed attractions, low key at first but really deeply satisfying and hiding within it some kernels of exploration that made more sense when you saw them live. And at that time, Wilco played some shows at a level I have seen very, very few bands match in 30 years.

 

Wilco (The Album) take it cues from Sky Blue Sky but expands it an album of surprising hope and optimism, flushed with straight-out beautiful moments and dipping freely into country, rock and pop yet always touching something very American.

 

There are still flashes of dark, even ugly moods (though I wouldn't have minded a bit more of Nels Cline's astounding guitarscapes). and some of those krautrock flourishes developed so effortlessly two albums ago, particularly in the nearly mesmerising Bull Black Nova. But musically, lyrically, and sonically we have a writer drawing on the certainty of love, support and flexibility around him to say things are possible ("All the good and the bad/Makes something that no one else has"), to sing the deliciously pretty duet with Leslie Feist, You and I, and be real rather than trite.

 

I don't think you can avoid the connection with this album coming after the election of Barack Obama and Tweedy's feeling that there's a renewed sense of a country with a moral core and an outward look.

 

It's why he can, with tongue in cheek but also with honesty, say - as he does in the opening Wilco (The Song) - "Wilco will love you baby." They're happy and I'm not worried at all.

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I swear, if I read one more review that laments the lack of "experimentation" found on YHF, I'm gonna pull my hair out. It's as if some people have completely forgotten what "experimentation" means at all. Don't you think a band that has put out as many records as Wilco has, each with its own identity and shifts in sound, is "experimental" altogether? Is it not "experimental" to go from A.M. to Summerteeth? Wilco has "experimented" with each album. To say/think that the blips & beeps of YHF [and other sounds/textures heard on the record] are the most true definition of "experimental" in Wilco is just narrow-minded and unimaginative.

 

To me, this is almost as bad/annoying as the phrase "Wilco rose from the ashes of alt-country pioneers Uncle Tupelo..."

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Washington Post Interview. Not horrible, but not amazing.

 

Change is constant for Wilco. Guided by the songs and voice of Jeff Tweedy, 41, every one of the band's albums since 1996's "Being There" (with the arguable exception of 2007's "Sky Blue Sky") has explored new subjects, textures and song structures. And of its six members, only Tweedy and bassist John Stirratt have been present since the beginning. But the band has remained a popular touring act, with a sold-out show booked at Wolf Trap for this Wednesday. Wilco's seventh studio album, "Wilco (the Album)," was officially released last week. We caught up with Tweedy by phone last month to talk about the new album's surprises, former Wilco member Jay Bennett's recent untimely death and more.

 

-- Chris Klimek

 

You waited seven albums in to do a self-titled disc, but now we've got "Wilco (the Album)" opening with "Wilco (the Song)."

 

Once "Wilco (the Song)" was a part of the record, it seemed like a no-brainer to try to pull of the rare rock troika: "Wilco (the Album)" featuring "Wilco (the Song)" by Wilco the band.

 

"Return to form" is one of the most overused phrases in rock criticism, and maybe not wholly applicable to "Wilco (the Album)," but it is sort of striking that you can hear echoes of all of the prior iterations of the band here. I wonder if by self-titling the album you're acknowledging that quality it has of summing up your history.

 

I don't disagree with there being a summing up. Obviously, "return to form" is always kind of a backhanded compliment. [Laughs.] I expect I'll be seeing a fair amount of that for every record I make from here on out.

 

You released a concert film, "Ashes of American Flags," earlier this year. After seeing that, I watched "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," Sam Jones's documentary about the making "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," again. You seem a lot happier in "Ashes." But there have been some changes in your personal life between now and then, too. You've been through rehab, for one thing.

 

 

 

Well, that's certainly a component that I wouldn't neglect to include on a list of whatever's working now that wasn't in the past. I certainly take a lot of responsibility for things not being as easy or as comfortable [before] as they are now. . . .

 

I watched "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" when it came out. I haven't seen it since. But my memories of making "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" aren't awful. My memories of making that record are pretty similar to all the records: There were parts of that were really hard, and parts that were really revelatory.

 

One of the things that is addressed in that film is Jay Bennett's dismissal. I think a lot of Wilco fans are curious to hear your thoughts on his passing. How did you hear the news?

 

We got word from Ed Burch, a close collaborator and friend of Jay's for many years. He got in touch when we were in Spain. It was late in the evening when we found out. We had just been in Spain for a couple of days.

 

It's really, really sad, tragic, shocking news. Certainly, I think everybody can understand the amount of ambivalence that would've existed between myself in particular, and the band in general, and Jay -- having not been in contact and not been in the band for such a long time, and having not been on good terms for such a long time. But that doesn't take away any of the sadness at all, or the tragedy. He was a really gifted musician, a really smart guy. He really had a lot to offer. We wish he was still here.

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I think Jeff has answered questions about Jay with a lot of honesty and grace. He could be very dishonest and overly sentimental. Given that their relationship ended several years ago and that the lawsuit made it somewhat hostile, I appreciate the forthright nature of his answers.

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I am sure there was some lawyer somewhere who briefed Jeff on how to answer such questions, knowing he was going into interview season. It was a good answer, not totally bitter, but very forthright.

 

LouieB

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Album of the Month in the latest copy of Uncut.

 

http://www.uncut.co.uk/music/wilco/reviews/13295

 

 

Jeff Tweedy’s declaration of peace. Then tragedy ensues

 

Review by John Mulvey

 

Four out of five stars

 

It is May 2009, and Jeff Tweedy has just streamed the seventh Wilco album on his band’s website. For perhaps the first time in Wilco’s complicated 15-year history, there is a palpable air of contentment to proceedings. The band lineup has remained miraculously unchanged, and there doesn’t appear to have been, as has become tradition, a radical creative rethink. Instead, Wilco (the album) picks up more or less where 2007’s mellow and soulful Sky Blue Sky left off, but subtly expands that record’s parameters.

 

Uncharacteristically, Tweedy also seems to have become reconciled to the music of his own past, so that the album often harks back to sounds and atmospheres – the sounds and atmospheres of 1999’s Summerteeth and 1996’s Being There strikingly – which he has spent most of the past decade trying hard to transcend. Tweedy’s ability to confound his fans is still there, but this time it comes to the fore in his lyrics. Those who have fetishised Tweedy as a tormented artist may be traumatised themselves by the content of Wilco (the album): often playful, and possessing a deep, droll, mature acceptance of the way things are. “There’re so many wars that just can’t be won/Even before the battle’s begun,” Tweedy sings gleefully in “Wilco (the song)”, “This is an aural arms open wide/ A sonic shoulder for you to cry on.”

 

In spite of Tweedy’s best-laid plans, however, a sort of gloom has subsequently accumulated around Wilco (the album), generated by the death on May 23 of Jay Bennett, a critical former member of the band. There’s a terrible pathos imposed on a clutch of these songs now. Just at the moment when Tweedy feels liberated enough to revisit the feel of his late ’90s music, the man who contributed so much to those albums first tries to sue him for royalties, then dies in his sleep. No matter how diligently Tweedy strives to escape mess and melancholy, they still return to engulf his band, one way or another.

 

It’s hard, then, to listen to “Deeper Down”, without thinking of Bennett, since it draws so assiduously on more or less the same baroque pop that he once championed in Wilco. As Tweedy explores the comforts of existentialism, a recurring theme of Wilco (the album) (“I adore the meaninglessness of the this we can’t express,” he pronounces, not the only instance of creaky lyrics on the album), all manner of steel guitars, glassy harpsichord-like effects – purportedly Nels Cline on guitar – and so on eddy around him. The meticulously layered result is not dissimilar to something like “Pieholden Suite” from Summerteeth, while the processed studio noise is held at bay in the background. It was the foregrounding of that noise, on similar melodic confections like “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”, that lead to Bennett leaving Wilco in 2001 in the wake of the fractious sessions for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

 

Elsewhere, “Wilco (the song)” and “Sonny Feeling” have that punchy mix of Big Star powerpop, faint Stones raunch and rock classicism (“Wilco (the song)” is that staple of trad rockers; the vamp that sounds a bit like “Werewolves Of London”) akin to about half of Being There. The unfortunate truth, though, is that this is clearly a happier and more intuitive lineup of Wilco than the ones which featured Bennett. The swinging confidence of “Sonny Feeling”, in particular, is unostentatiously breathtaking, as are the little details in what initially appears to be a pretty straightforward arrangement; listen to the discreet virtuosity with which Cline keeps evolving his guitar fills at the end of each line.

 

Bennett’s great fight circa Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was with the supposedly avant-garde mixer, Jim O’Rourke, and it’s another irony of sorts that Wilco (the album) is co-produced by Jim Scott, who mixed Being There and Summerteeth, and whose other major clients – Tom Petty, the Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sting – don’t immediately suggest that he’s an experimental maverick.

 

Nowadays, of course, Wilco have two musicians with serious leftfield chops (Cline and drummer Glenn Kotche) implanted inside the band. It’s a measure of Tweedy’s reliable perversion, though, that – as happened on Sky Blue Sky – their frictional talents are kept on a leash; Cline wasn’t even present for early sessions in New Zealand last winter. The guitarist may take flight when the band play live (his searing contribution to a Summerteeth song, “Shot In The Arm” on 2005’s live set, Kicking Television, is a handy example), but here his devilry is chiefly in the details: the immensely lyrical flurries that he wraps around “One Wing”, for instance, or the filigree squiggles that close “Everlasting Everything”.

 

His showcase, though, is “Bull Black Nova”, a bloodstained fiction written from the perspective of a man who’s just murdered someone in his car, grafted onto an edgy motorik pulse, a distressed structural relative of “Spiders (Kidsmoke)”, from 2004’s A Ghost Is Born. By the end of “Bull Black Nova”, Tweedy, Cline and Pat Sansone’s massed guitars are clanking and spitting like some face-off between Television and Sonic Youth. It’s then, about four minutes in, that a slight disappointment surfaces – that Wilco haven’t made an entire album as abrasive and daring as this one track, one that could measure up to their high-water mark A Ghost Is Born.

 

The consolations of Wilco (the album) are sweeter, based on masterful songwriting craft (half of Sky Blue Sky were co-writes. This time Tweedy writes everything himself – save “Deeper Down”, a collaboration with Sansone). They can be found in “You And I”, a radio-friendly, poignantly observed song about the vagaries of enduring love, sung intimately by Tweedy and Leslie Feist. They’re in “Solitaire”, a hushed warning against the perils of self-absorption that begins like Nick Drake, then blossoms into something which, if Tweedy hadn’t railed so eloquently against the term over the years, we might just about call alt.country (“Far Far Away”, from Being There, is a plausible reference point).

 

And they’re at their brightest in “You Never Know”, which points up the futilities of angst while barrelling along like a lost track from George Harrison’s masterpiece All Things Must Pass, right down to the “My Sweet Lord” slide guitar. “Come on children, you’re acting like children ,” sings Tweedy, “Every generation thinks it’s the end of the world.” As a celebration, it’s a peculiarly rueful one. In common with much of Wilco (the album), the gist seems to be that while everything might not be great, it’s totally counterproductive to spend all our time consumed by stress.

 

But as an anthem made by men of a certain age who’ve been there, done that and taken the picture of the camel in a party hat (as seen on the cover), it works brilliantly. Wilco (the album) feels like Tweedy coming to terms with his past and his place in the rock’n’roll firmament. If only one of his former bandmates had been lucky enough to reach a point of such resolution.

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As Tweedy explores the comforts of existentialism, a recurring theme of Wilco (the album) (“I adore the meaninglessness of the this we can’t express,” he pronounces, not the only instance of creaky lyrics on the album), all manner of steel guitars, glassy harpsichord-like effects – purportedly Nels Cline on guitar – and so on eddy around him.

 

A nice review, but how anyone can call that lyric "creaky" is beyond me. It is brilliant, polished to a high sheen. It works both as poetry and as words set to music rhythmically. In other words, it's more of what we've come to expect from Tweedy.

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Here's a full interview from the Washington Post:

 

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/postrock/2009/07/being_there_on_the_phone_with.html

 

Being There (On the Phone) With Jeff Tweedy

 

You saw Chris Klimek's interview with Wilco's Jeff Tweedy in Sunday's newspaper. That was just a teaser. Here's the entire thing, to get you ready for the band's sold-out show tonight at Wolf Trap.

 

You waited seven albums in to do a self-titled disc, but now we've got Wilco (the album) opening with Wilco (the song). That's one of those jokes where it's hard to figure out why it's so funny. How did you end up deciding to go the eponymous route with the album and the song?

I think it started with "Wilco (the song)." At one point I was trying to sing a lot of different words in there, because I didn't know if it would be effective if I sang "Wilco." Eventually I realized that "Wilco" was the only thing I sang in that spot that made everybody smile in the band. So there was no avoiding it. Then all the Joe the Plumber stuff started happening, and that was really disheartening. [Laughs.] Once "Wilco (the song)" was a part of the record, it seemed like a no-brainer to try to pull of the rare rock troika: "Wilco (the album)" featuring "Wilco (the song)" by Wilco the band.

 

It seems like there's kind of a self-deprecating note there. We have heard some humor in Wilco songs before, but usually it's more hidden than that. What is it about the place you've arrived with the band now that makes you comfortable having some fun with the public perception of the band in that way?

It wasn't intended as a coming-out party for the Wilco sense of humor. To be honest, we felt like our live shows, in particular -- maybe they don't always start there, but they usually end up at some sort of joyous point. You figure rock-and-roll is all celebrating something; being alive or whatever. Maybe there's always been a little humor there. It's been under-reported. It just seems to come through a bit more in the context of this record for whatever reason. Maybe it's because there's a camel on the cover.

 

It's also a surprise to hear a female voice on a Wilco record. How did the Feist duet, "You and I," come about?

I'm a big admirer of her voice and her records, as is everybody in the band. We met her at the Grammys, which is a sentence I didn't ever see as being in the cards for me. [Laughs.] I took a chance and got in touch with her to see if she was interested in singing with me on anything: a cover, come up with a song, make a song for her record, whatever. Just the idea of getting together was really the point. I sent her ["You and I"] because it was the first thing I wrote that I thought would maybe work as a duet, and she was into it. So we got together, and worked on a couple of other things, none of them as intensely as on that song. That one ended up getting finished and felt like it would be a good thing to have on the record.

 

You started this album, as with your last several, at your loft in Chicago, but ended up doing some recording at Neil Finn's studio in New Zealand. Did that have any specific effect on the sound or the attitude of the record?

Being away from our home turf and having a limited number of instruments at our disposal -- as opposed to at our loft, which is overwhelmingly packed with gear -- allowed us to focus on making really sturdy basic tracks, which is something we haven't done in a long time. On "Sky Blue Sky," basically everybody is playing all at once and trying to record a live record in the studio. The same with "A Ghost Is Born," in a way. We did a lot of live recording on that record. I don't think you could call what we did with "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" making basic tracks. I think we took finished tracks and tore them apart. It was just a different style of recording that we haven't done in a long time; probably not since "Summerteeth." So that probably has a lot more to do with it than just being in the Southern Hemisphere.

 

"Return to form" is one of the most overused phrases in rock criticism, and maybe not wholly applicable to "Wilco (the album)," but it is sort of striking that you can hear echoes of all of the prior iterations of the band here. I wonder if by self-titling the album you're acknowledging that quality it has of summing up your history. Is there something about this stage of Wilco that makes you feel comfortable not rejecting a song just because it reminds you of an earlier era of the band, as you might've in the past?

Well, yeah. This a really confident-sounding record to me. We're very confident and comfortable being Wilco, maybe moreso than ever before. I don't disagree with there being a summing up. Obviously, "return to form" is always kind of a backhanded compliment. [Laughs.] I expect I'll be seeing a fair amount of that for every record I make from here on out. You get to a certain point where you've made so many records that every one is gonna be a return to form for somebody, I suppose.

 

I think it is a summing up. Maybe it grows out of the experience we had doing the [Feb. 2008] residency shows in Chicago, where we played the entire Wilco catalogue in five nights. This lineup of the band has been around long enough to kind of lay claim and ownership to all of that material. Maybe "Sky Blue Sky" could have been a debut record for this version of the band if we weren't so skittish about how long our lineups last, you know? But after having that under our belt, and a live album [2005's "Kicking Television"], this feels like as good a time as any to put out a debut album. [Laughs.]

 

Well, since you brought it up, this is the first time where the membership of the band has remained unchanged for two consecutive studio albums. What is it about the current lineup that has given it that staying power? Are there elements that were missing before; particular instrumental skills or personality types or whatever?

There's certainly a level of musicianship that's hard to deny is something really wonderful to be a part of. [but] I also think that previous lineups of the band were full of accomplished musicians. Maybe's it's experience. All of us have been in other bands. Everybody has made music for a long time and made lots of records. There's an appreciation that we all have for the fact that we've been able to do something we love to do for such a long time. I don't know. It's really remarkable, and maybe not something that people really like to hear about -- it seems sort of Pollyanna-ish when you talk about it. But we really have a great environment to work in, and we all love each other quite a bit.

 

You released a concert film, "Ashes of American Flags," earlier this year. After seeing that, I watched "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," Sam Jones's documentary about the making "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," again. You seem a lot happier in "Ashes." Maybe it's that being on the road is not the anguished process that making a breakthrough album like "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" is. There have been some changes in your personal life between now and then, too. You've been through rehab, for one thing.

Well, that's certainly a component that I wouldn't neglect to include on a list of whatever's working now that wasn't in the past. I certainly take a lot of responsibility for things not being as easy or as comfortable [before] as they are now. I watched "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" when it came out. I haven't seen it since. But my memories of making "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" aren't awful. My memories of making that record are pretty similar to all the records: There were parts of that were really hard, and parts that were really revelatory. All of the records have been like that. Maybe not so much this record, the newest one. It's probably about the smoothest record I've ever made. But the part that's not in "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" is the part that was really revelatory and exciting and gratifying. That's the part we've always focused on. That's what keeps you making records, you know?

 

One of the things that is addressed in that film is Jay Bennett's dismissal. I think a lot of of Wilco fans are curious to hear your thoughts on his passing. How did you hear the news?

We got word from Ed Burch, a close collaborator and friend of Jay's for many years. He got in touch when we were in Spain. It was late in the evening when we found out. We had just been in Spain for a couple of days. It's really, really sad, tragic, shocking news. Certainly, I think everybody can understand the amount of ambivalence that would've existed between myself in particular, and the band in general, and Jay, having not been in contact and not been in the band for such a long time, and not been on such good terms for such a long time. But that doesn't take away any of the sadness at all, or the tragedy. He was a really gifted musician, a really smart guy. He really had a lot to offer. We wish he was still here.

 

So you hadn't had any contact the last few years -- just the notice that he was filing a lawsuit against you?

Well, that wasn't through him. But yeah, the sad truth is that that was the last bit of news we had from Jay.

 

That's too bad.

Uh-huh.

 

I think people know that Wilco is your creative vehicle, primarily, to which other players contribute to a greater or lesser degree. Are you comfortable with your role there? Is the responsibility of being the leader and the creative engine of the band something that has ever been a burden to you, or has seemed distasteful to you, with all the lineup changes?

No. I've grown into that role and gotten much more comfortable in it over the years, but some part of me has always been able to deal with it, you know? I think I've been able to enjoy it most of the way. I feel like Wilco is a band. There is a collaborative spirit to everything we've done, and every record, in spite of all the lineup changes. I think the band has benefited from being an open environment for people to contribute their ideas and feel invested in something. But I've definitely gotten more and more comfortable with the idea that the thread that runs through all of those records is my voice and my lyrics and maybe an overall sensibility that kind of steers things a little bit.

 

There's a very moving passage in "Ashes of American Flags" that leads right into that closing section of songs from the 9:30 Club, where you're talking about John [stirratt]. You say, "I think this band could absorb another change, as long as it's not John." One of my favorite moments in the film is actually on the DVD extras, where you have that take of John singing "It's Just That Simple." It's a such a beautiful song, and I'd forgotten about it, because "A.M." is not one of the Wilco records I listen to a lot anymore. Has the possibility ever come up again of John writing or singing another song with Wilco?

It's not an issue that either one of us has pushed a whole lot. Every time John plays that song, I think how nice it would be if John had more songs in the Wilco catalogue that we could draw upon. On a purely selfish note, I think it's kind of fun to sit back and play the bass and take a little break [while John is singing]. That's just a thought that's come up many, many times over the years, and it's just never been pushed as an issue by either one of us. I imagine at this point, there's a lot of baggage that would go with any other voice than mine being pushed to the front. I don't know if that weighs at all on John's decision not to step forward more. It's just so established at this point that it may be a little bit harder than it once was to introduce another singer to the mix.

 

You said you haven't seen "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" since it came out, but what people always remember from that film is your argument with Jay at the mixing desk, making "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot." When I watched the film again recently, it struck me that that argument was much calmer and more civil than I remembered. You and Jay clearly disagree, but no one is insulting each other or throwing punches. We even see you patting him on the back like you're trying to defuse the tension. It just looks and sounds like the kind of disagreement that might come up in any creative enterprise. It must be terrible to have these five minutes from one bad day in your life, eight or nine years ago, immortalized.

Well, there are a lot of things about that movie that have calcified people's opinions about myself, about Jay, about the band, about that record. It's the story that Sam Jones told, and I think he made a good movie. It's obviously memorable to people, and it has a certain dramatic flair. But yeah, it's obviously ridiculous when you look at the situation, which is common in rock bands -- or in any group of guys, you know? One of the things that's really struck me over the years is the way people perceive Jay's leaving the band as being some issue between Jay and I, and not -- as was the case -- an issue that we as a band had to deal with. There were a lot of people contributing to every stage of the band. That's not to take anything away from anybody's contribution. But it's one of the reasons that that image has been so prominently espoused, I think.

 

Having gone through that, do you think you'd be willing to give a documentarian that kind of access again, or would you think twice?

Well, we kinda did. There's a documentary coming out about this benefit record we made in New Zealand. [Filmmakers] Brendan Canty and Christoph Green have followed us around and done a lot of footage over the years -- the "Ashes" stuff. I'm not too concerned about stuff like that. I mean, in 25 or 50 or a hundred years, who gives a [expletive]? It's never gonna mean a thing to anybody. [Laughs.] Wilco has always taken the path of least resistance in terms of controlling our image. If people are interested, we feel lucky.

 

You've had some bad experiences with aggressive or overly enthusiastic fans forcing their way onstage. There was an incident in 2006 where you defended yourself against a guy who came at you onstage, rather than go the way of Noel Gallagher. I heard about a similar situation here in DC at Constitution Hall a few years ago, where a guy tried to climb up and take a photo with you or something, and that resulted in the show ending prematurely, with songs still on the set list.

Wilco has never ended a show for any reason other than a curfew. I can honestly assure you of that. The only time we've ever ended with songs still on our set list was if we've reached the curfew, and the union is going to start charging us $10,000 a minute to keep the hall open. Any of those situations that have arose over the years have been handled as best we can handle them. That guy -- I would not have though twice about anything if the security had not been completely nonexistent all night long. I let the guy go even then, and then he came up behind me -- the one in Springfield; the one that's on YouTube. So I had no idea what he was going to do; if he was going to slit my throat or something. He was just some sort of spaced-out hippie who wanted to give me a kiss or something. But he got an earful of Tweedy manhood. [Laughs.]

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I swear, if I read one more review that laments the lack of "experimentation" found on YHF, I'm gonna pull my hair out. It's as if some people have completely forgotten what "experimentation" means at all. Don't you think a band that has put out as many records as Wilco has, each with its own identity and shifts in sound, is "experimental" altogether? Is it not "experimental" to go from A.M. to Summerteeth? Wilco has "experimented" with each album. To say/think that the blips & beeps of YHF [and other sounds/textures heard on the record] are the most true definition of "experimental" in Wilco is just narrow-minded and unimaginative.

 

To me, this is almost as bad/annoying as the phrase "Wilco rose from the ashes of alt-country pioneers Uncle Tupelo..."

 

Great point!

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from the pretender:

 

 

“There’s a war outside still raging

you say it ain’t our anymore to win

I want to sleep beneath peaceful skies in my lover’s bed

with a wide open country in my eyes

and these romantic dreams in my head”

-Bruce Springsteen, “No Surrender”

 

 

Wilco (The Album) begins with a solemn promise: stick with this record and you’ll be rewarded. Love and be loved and things will work out. The opening track, “Wilco (the song),” asks if if things are okay, because Jeff Tweedy, more than anyone, knows that the answer is probably no. “Are times getting tough? Are the roads you travel rough?” The solution? “Put on your headphones before you explode. Wilco will love you baby.” “Wilco (the song)” makes it plain and clear: things are tough. The country is in shambles, or maybe it’s already disappeared. There’s not much in the world that makes you feel good? Then put on your headphones, because Wilco (the album) will love you.

 

Wilco (the album) lives up to its title; it is an album in the truest sense, one in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Listen to “You and I,” the cuddly duet with Feist as a stand-alone track, and if you’re not in the right mood you may wonder if Jeff Tweedy has lost his mind. But after the manic bloodshed in “Bull Black Nova,” “You and I” is a sigh of relief that establishes a whole new beginning for the album. Human connection is hard, and there’s nothing adorable about a line like “however close we get sometimes, it’s like we never might.” But “You and I,” like the less-serious “Wilco (the song) is about finding solace in companionship, whether it’s your lover, friend, or maybe just a really great record. Wilco (the album) inhabits a world of isolation, chaos, murder, and disruption, and the only way to survive is to stay close to others and stick together.

 

In Tweedy’s modern landscape, being alone will kill you, if it hasn’t already. The narrator in “Solitaire” realizes this, but it might be too late: “took too long to think I was wrong to believe in me only.” Self-pride and solitude simply won’t cut it these days. The tenacious narrator in ”I’ll Fight,” one of the catchiest Wilco songs in recent memory, understands this, and is willing to kill and murder if it means not dying alone and unnoticed. It’s not hard to imagine the narrator in “I’ll Fight” living up to his word (“I’ll kill for you, I will”) and ending up with blood on his hands in “Bull Black Nova,” wondering if, in the end, it was even worth it. The album’s closer “Everlasting Everything” is a devotion to eternal love. “Every building built to the sky will fall. But don’t try to tell me my everlasting love is a lie.” It’s the only thing anyone can take for granted. Without everlasting love, we find out in “One Wing,” the album’s standout track, that “we can only wave goodbye.”

 

Jeff Tweedy’s America has gone to hell, and it might not be worth trying to fix. There are “so many wars that can’t be won” in “Wilco (the song),” and the only thing left to do is to put on a pair of headphones and drown the noisy world out for as long as possible. Thing are worse than we can even imagine in “Country Dissapeared.” The country is reduced to crushed cities left with nothing but auctioneers and helicopters, and “there’s so much we don’t understand.” But all of this turmoil is met with out a certain indifference. Perhaps there are more important things we ought to be concerned with. More important than the world coming to an end? Tweedy is outright giddy in the infectious “You Never Know,” singing “I don’t care anymore,” again and again. And so it seems, somehow, that none of this really matters.

 

But maybe that’s the point. A song like “Country Disapeared” could be downright tragic, or just miserably overwrought, but there’s far more joy than sadness to be found in the beautiful melodies throughout Wilco (the album). The chorus in “Country Disapeared” is a melancholy triumph: “So every evening we can watch from above/crushed cities like a bug/ fold our face’s into each other’s guts/ and turn out face up to the sun.” Faced with a crumbling world around them, the characters in Wilco (the album) need each other more than ever. If they love each other enough to look down at their dissapearing country from above, then maybe, just maybe, they can convince themselves that what they see down below isn’t real. And if it is, so long as everyone is still huddled together, they can sing out with confidence that they don’t care anymore.

 

“Hold out your hand,

There’s so much we don’t understand

So stick as close as you can”

Jeff Tweedy, “Country Disapeared”

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Boston Globe interview with Jeff:

 

Hey all,

 

I just found this interesting but brief article in the globe today.

 

http://www.boston.com/ae/music/articles/2009/07/10/wilco_the_interview__jeff_tweedy_talks_about_the_tour_the_album_and_his_music/

 

Getting wicked psyched for Lowell and Maine, should be a great couple of weekends.

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