Archive for Wilco

We Blew It: Adding Wilco’s “Ode To Joy” To Tulip Frenzy’s 2019 Top 10 List

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on December 13, 2019 by johnbuckley100

The crisis began when we read New York magazine music critic Craig Jenkins’ Top 10 list for 2019. There, quite surprisingly, was Wilco’s Ode To Joy in the #1 slot. I literally sat up straighter, and felt the unease that had been lingering like a hidden virus suddenly blossom into panic.

You see, back in mid-November, when Tulip Frenzy published our Top 20 List of Albums released in the ’10s, we wrestled with whether to include Wilco’s 2011 album The Whole Love. It was on our Top 10 List that year, but over time it has grown on me, and our team spontaneously plays it on the stereo in the office rec room. 2011 was a stellar year for music, but The Whole Love should have ranked higher. (We also quite liked 2015’s Star Wars, though it didn’t make The List.)

How could it be, we thought when considering albums of the decade, that America’s preeminent rock group, a band that operates with smaller crowds, fewer sales but equivalent maturity and musical skill as Radiohead, how is it they didn’t make that list?

The short answer is that compiling lists is a tough exercise and you make regrettable choices. We thought of Ode To Joy when, two weeks later, we published our 2019 Top 10 list. That album had provided the ambient soundtrack to Autumn weekends, even if we had not elevated it to the command focus of records listened to while working out (ear buds nestled near the brain) or on our commute (my car = a stereo that just happens to have wheels.) We kept finding enjoyable moments — for example, that Fripp and Eno squall buried in the mix of “Quiet Amplifier,” the subversive trolling of the MAGA hatters in the “white lies” refrain on “Citizens.” But it still underwhelmed us sufficiently that we didn’t, ultimately, put it on our 2019 Top 10 list.

When we saw it listed last Friday as Jenkins’ #1 album for all of 2019, the whole team went back and listened to it all over again, or maybe it’s more accurate to write, for the first time. We had that sinking feeling that we — all of the editorial voices comprising the magic deliberations room at Tulip Frenzy World HQ — had done Wilco an injustice.

We henceforth place them, retroactively, on Tulip Frenzy’s 2019 Top 10 List. We admit our mistake. Graciously, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have accepted their fate and vacated the bottom rung on the list.

Ode to Joy is a great album. And no, we’re not going back to revisit our opinion of Schmilco.

The Cool Intelligence Behind Wilco’s Free “Star Wars” Album

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on July 18, 2015 by johnbuckley100

So Wilco surprised us all, Christmas in July, with the free download this week of Star Wars.  If the album sucked, it would be a stunt.  Because the album is first rate — stripped down, back to the roots, unpretentious and punk-rock pure — it stands as a marvel.  Let’s think about what they’ve done here, for a moment.

Out of insecurity, corporate hubris, and the sentimental gullibility of a longtime partner, U2 forced upon us whatever it was that album was called that Apple foisted upon our iTunes library last year.  U2 is a much bigger, more successful band than Wilco, at least they have been over time, and out of what Bono admitted was a need on their part to make sure everyone listened to what they still could create, they took a big payment from Apple and all of us woke up to find an album we didn’t ask for hogging bits on our hard drives.  It wasn’t bad, but the manner they forced it on us was so oft-putting, it left a copper and merde taste in everyone’s mouth, save for members of the U2 fan club.  And it backfired perfectly: the album proved that U2 had outlasted its welcome, which was kind of sad.

Wilco is an amazing success story, as an entity.  After living through one of those epic record label disasters that foretold the imminent collapse of the industry — when one unit of Warner Bros. rejected Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, still perhaps their greatest record, only to have it picked up and released by another unit of Warner Bros. — over time, Wilco took complete control of their fate, and as “I Love My Label” attests, they created the only record label they could trust: themselves.  Wilco is an institution, American superstars for lovers of good music.  They treat their fans to live albums downloadable from their website, tour when they wish, host their own festival.  They do everything on their own terms.  But do they still, you know, matter?  Are they still relevant, great?

Star Wars is a really great album, reveling in the guitar-based core of the band.  Whereas on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot the band came to us like mysterious radio signals out of the foggy sea, and whereas the most recent The Whole Love sounded like a band that didn’t want to cede the mantle of progressive experimentation to Radiohead — another band that surprises all with free album releases — Star Wars sounds like smart and soulful kids getting together in a studio to have fun.  They just happen to be a magically adept unit, able to turn on a dime, rock harder than bands the age of young Spencer Tweedy, and have a recognizable sound to mine.

We’re grateful to Wilco for the free album, which happens also to be a brilliant career move — a true gift which we can access on our terms, even as they offer it to us on theirs.  We are grateful to Wilco for a whole lot more than this album, but it’s a nice reminder, isn’t it?

Wilco’s Roadcase 23 — Their Set From Austin Last Weekend — May Be Their Best Live Album Ever

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on October 20, 2013 by johnbuckley100

There was a time in rock’n’roll when the Stones would put out Get Yer Ya-Yas Out, The Who would put out Live At Leeds, or even getting The Clash’s Shea Stadium set released posthumously, was a very big deal.  Live albums often were punctuation marks in an artist’s career, a way of buying time while they recorded that next studio album, or a way of extending the profits from non-stop touring.

But with a nod to the Dead, some years ago, Pearl Jam pioneered the art of releasing virtually every live concert, and in recent years, we’ve had the magnificent collection of Fugazi sets released.  Wilco is now up to 23 Roadcase releases,  and their set from Stubbs last weekend in Austin is possibly their best collection yet.  Here’s the set — a long, comprehensive concert with nods to playing in Texas (Doug Sahm cover, more country than usual), while still coming through with a career-spanning and literally awesome recording.

Here’s the playlist.

01 – Someone Else’s Song
02 – Blood of the Lamb
03 – Hesitating Beauty
04 – Give Back The Key To My Heart [Doug Sahm cover]
05 – Misunderstood
06 – Forget the Flowers
07 – Dead Flowers [The Rolling Stones cover]
08 – Passenger Side
09 – It’s Just That Simple
10 – Handshake Drugs
11 – Hummingbird
12 – Open Mind
13 – Poor Places
14 – Art of Almost
15 – I Might
16 – Impossible Germany
17 – Born Alone
18 – Laminated Cat (aka Not For The Season)
19 – Radio Cure
20 – Via Chicago
21 – Whole Love
22 – I’m Always In Love
23 – Heavy Metal Drummer
24 – Dawned On Me
25 – Happy Birthday [Mildred J. Hill cover]
26 – Shot in the Arm
27 – Jesus, Etc.
28 – California Stars
29 – Walken
30 – I’m the Man Who Loves You
31 – I Got You (At the End of the Century)
32 – Casino Queen
33 – Hoodoo Voodoo
34 – The Lonely 1

 

Ok, So If Ever We Have A Bar Mitzvah, We’re Hiring Wilco

Posted in Music with tags , , , on July 11, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Some years ago, when we worked at AOL, a prominent senior executive hired the Dave Matthews Band for his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah.  Now that we have listened to the magnificent set of covers Wilco just released for sale on their website, we feel duty-bound to alert billionaires everywhere, this is the cover band you want to hire!  Just the segue from “Dead Flowers” to “Simple Twist of Fate” shows off the band’s breadth. By the time they transition from the Kink’s “Waterloo Sunset” to Abba’s “Waterloo,” they’ve not just proved their point — yeah, best cover band ever — they’ve delighted us sufficiently to throw this into the pile for consideration, later this year, for Tulip Frenzy’s Album of The Year.

Seriously, Who Wouldn’t Download This Set of Wilco Covers?

Posted in Music with tags , , on July 8, 2013 by johnbuckley100

So they put the Saturday night set of covers from the Solid Sound fest up on Roadcase, where you download it to your library here. How can you possibly resist this set?

01 – The Boys Are Back in Town (Thin Lizzy cover)
02 – Cut Your Hair (Pavement cover)
03 – In the Street (Big Star cover)
04 – New Madrid (Uncle Tupelo cover)
05 – Dead Flowers (The Rolling Stones cover)
06 – Simple Twist of Fate (Bob Dylan cover)
07 – Ripple (Grateful Dead cover)
08 – Who Loves the Sun (The Velvet Underground cover)
09 – And Your Bird Can Sing (The Beatles cover)
10 – And Your Bird Can Sing (The Beatles cover) (2nd time)
11 – Psychotic Reaction (Count Five cover)
12 – Tom Courtenay (Yo La Tengo cover) (with Yo La Tengo)
13 – James Alley Blues (Richard Brown cover)
14 – Waterloo Sunset (The Kinks cover) (with Lucius)
15 – Waterloo (ABBA cover) (with Lucius)
16 – (What’s So Funny ’bout) Peace, Love and Understanding (Nick Lowe cover)
17 – Marquee Moon (Television cover)
18 – Happy Birthday To You (Mildred J. Hill cover) (to Pat Sansone)
19 – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper (Blue Oyster Cult cover)
20 – Cinnamon Girl (Neil Young cover)
21 – Get Lucky (Daft Punk cover)
22 – Surrender (Cheap Trick cover)
23 – Color Me Impressed (The Replacements cover) (with Tommy Stinson)
24 – Kingpin
25 – Thank You Friends (Big Star cover)

Encore:
26 – The Weight (The Band cover) (with Lucius) (dedicated to Levon Helm)
27 – Roadrunner (The Modern Lovers cover) (with Yo La Tengo)

 

Wilco At Wolf Trap

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on July 18, 2012 by johnbuckley100

 

iPhone 4S

Wilco are virtuosi, we’ve known that for years, but the last few times we’ve seen them, there has been a level of perfection that belied spontaneity.  Not so last night at Wolf Trap, where a band that plays tighter than a rusted rivet was loose, and frisky, and don’t even get us started on Nels Cline.  At one point — maybe it was after “The Art of Almost” and “Handshake Drugs” had Cline’s left hand working the frets with the force and precision of pistons in a V12 Aston Martin, or it could have been just before the Duane and Dicky harmony guitar in “Impossible Germany” — Tweedy looked over at his unlikely partner, and then at us in the crowd, and all he could do was smile, as in, “Do you believe this guy?”

 

iPhone 4S

Somehow, we lucked out and glommed what we were forced to refer to as the Mitt Romney tickets — not just in the 1 percent, but in the .01 percent, you know, so close we were listening to the band directly from their amplifiers, not via the ginormous sound system way above us that pumped out the songs all the way to the folks on the lawn, but in the range of the band’s own monitors — and inside that auditory bubble, Wilco was as fine as we have ever heard them, going all the way back to the Jay Bennett days.  Relaxed and having fun, with essentially the same physical set and playlist as on their tour last Autumn, Wilco’s making the most of their summer vacation.  We look forward to new music, but are grateful they played songs from throughout their magnificent and storied career.

Lee Ranaldo played a fine set to kick things off, and with Cline doing double duty and playing with his friend, you could imagine, from the guitars, that couples therapy had done the trick, and Sonic Youth were reformed.

Kicking Television

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on July 18, 2012 by johnbuckley100

Wilco at Wolf Trap.  Pretty great show.  iPhone 4S.

Tulip Frenzy’s #7 Best Album of 2011: Wilco’s “The Whole Love”

Posted in Music with tags , on November 26, 2011 by johnbuckley100

Ambitious, but not to a fault, comforting yet still with an edge, America’s finest band explored new ground on The Whole Love even while producing a work on the continuum stretching back to A Ghost Is Born. Jeff Tweedy dissed the dissers in advance of the album’s release, mocking those purists who, no matter what Wilco now does would go, “Meh.”  The fact remains that Wilco, in the kind of groove the Stones hit with Sticky Fingers, have had a run of great albums, and while Wilco, The Album gave us pause, the moment we heard “The Art of Almost,” and then “Born Alone,” we knew it wasn’t over.

Wilco And The Art Of Being There

Posted in Music with tags , on September 27, 2011 by johnbuckley100

Leica D-Lux 3, ISO 800

Modern Wilco, the hip band that from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot on tuned us in to mysterious frequencies and gibberish language floating on the radio waves, is hellbent on showing their breadth.  So it is they could play a languid folk song like “One Sunday Morning (Song For Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)” at Merriweather Post the other night, immediately following the Television-like “Black Bull Nova.”  Sometimes their folky consonant impulse is trumped by their noise-rock dissonant impulse in the same song, such as “Via Chicago,” which led off their encore, and includes the band just wailing, from out of nowhere, while Tweedy sings on as if nothing were amiss, his youthful voice prettily keeping to the melody.

There’s something oddly satisfying about their sweet’n’sour approach, even when it’s revealed as schtick.  When “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” led off Foxtrot a decade ago, it was at once a reminder of the junkie cadences of Tom Verlaine’s “Yonki Time,” mashed up with the raw angst expressed by Alex Chilton in Sister Lovers — an in-the-moment, off-kilter, druggy song charming mostly in the way melody fought through entropy.  But now when they come out and they play it note for note — well, it’s incredibly powerful, but it’s show biz, right, an amazingly proficient band able to re-manufacture the moment of creativity, on stage, before 10,000 people, night after night.

I’ll take Wilco’s perfectionist absence of spontaneity over a less ambitious band’s more sincere raucousness, so long as they keep churning out albums with the scope and ambition of The Whole Love, released today, and with enough grist that we’ll be working through it for months, maybe years.

We’ve previously referenced how The Whole Love invokes Wilco’s Beatles impulse.  On Sky Blue Sky, we loved the tongue-in-cheek evocation of Abbey Road‘s sound — from Ringo’s plodding drums to the Billy Preston keyboards during the bridge of “I Hate It Here.”  On The Whole Love, we have Tweedy invoking John Lennon on “Sunloathe,” and “Capitol City” could have fallen off the back of the truck carrying The White Album master to the factory.  Just as we don’t begrudge them their consummate professionalism onstage, we love the fact that only Wilco and Olivia Tremor Control have figured out how to sound like the entire quartet, the complete Fab 4 — a little Macca vocal, a-a-nd here’s that George slide sound…

The first three songs of the concert the other night, all from The Whole Love — “The Art of Almost,” followed by “I Might,” followed by “Black Moon” — could be Wilco in miniature: experimental art-rock building to a psychedelic crescendo, followed by an homage to the New Wave soul sound of Get Happy, followed by a tuneful acoustic picker of almost breathtaking delicacy.  Sometimes the live band consists of three guitars and a keyboard, or two keyboards and two guitars, but its sound is always dense and layered, with multiple virtuosi — talents on the order of Nels Cline and Pat Sansone aren’t usually teamed in the same band, just like baseball teams don’t usually have a rotation like the Phillies’ — and always there is Tweedy, the Everyman with the rumpled, just-out-of-bed-even-if-I’m-dressed-up look, and the voice that is astonishingly even, steady, youthful, deceptively elastic and true.  We used to think it was anodyne, now we think it’s genius.

Longtime readers of Tulip Frenzy know that, over the years, we’ve been ambivalent about Wilco, for one reason in particular.  We don’t like bands that lull people into singing along with what we’ve perceived as heroin-chic lyrics — “Guess all I need is a shot in the arm… there’s something in my veins bloodier than blood”– etc.  In fact, the other night, we saw a dad lifting his little tow-head girl into the air while singing those words, and we thought, “Good God, man, listen to what you’re singing!”  On the other side of the ledger, when critics put down Sky Blue Sky because after Foxtrot  and A Ghost Is Born, it supposedly lacked “an edge,” it was a dumb allusion to Tweedy’s post-recovery sobriety, and one that pissed us off.

We’re done wrestling with Wilco.  The band that once titled an album Being There is — if you are there and in the moment, as they say — incredibly entertaining and enjoyable.  They also are, by dint of their accumulated songbook and the weight of their albums, the most “important” band of the present age, and what they produce achieves genuine greatness.  From the Southern rock of A.M.  to the encyclopedic The Whole Love, Wilco’s growth curve puts a fair number of pantheon cohabitants — we’re talking about you, U2 — to shame.  We throw in the towel, and not with reluctance.  Wilco has earned full rights to our devotion.

UPDATE: Anyone noticed how near the end of “One Sunday Morning (Song For Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend),” Nels Cline and Mikael Jorgenson/Pat Sansone sound EXACTLY like Fripp and Eno on Evening Star?

UPDATE 2: Dig the way on the D-Lux version on iTunes, includes the song “I Love My Label,” which is a direct invocation of Camper Van Beethoven.  Anyone can invoke the Ramones, but only the very cool dare sound like Camper.  Nice move, and happy about the record label, guys.

Tulip Frenzy Salutes Wilco On The Eve Of “The Whole Love”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 27, 2011 by johnbuckley100

It was a magnificent show at Merriweather Post Pavilion.  Leica D-Lux 3, ISO 800, a little noise reduction in Lightroom 3.  More tomorrow when the album’s officially out.

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