MUSIC REVIEW | Wilco – Being There (1996)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “Well worth it’s 80 minutes.”

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Wilco’s A.M was a steadily confident debut.  But that’s no big surprise, head song writer Jeff Tweedy had already done pretty well with his old band Uncle Tupelo, which also included Wilco bassist John Stirratt.  So they knew what they were doing.  But as fully formed as the band was for their first record, I’m still impressed that they followed it up with the double album ambitiousness of Being There.

With a dreamy, reflective approach that the band would reutilise again in a few albums for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco eases the listener into Being There with Misunderstood.  The airy, flowing subconscious feeling of its majority, works perfectly with the chaotic mess of its later moments to show that the listener is in for a wide ranging journey on this one.

The band’s alt-country pedigree is on fine display in the melancholic, pedal steel sadness of Far, Far Away with Tweedy sounding well beyond his 30ish years when this song was recorded.  But when it’s time for some rock n’ roll, they bring it hard with the harpsichord lead, driving beats and triumphantly harmonic chorus of Monday.

The impeccable rock continues with Outtasite (Outta Mind) before the country sound goes full banjo pluckin’ on Forget the Flowers.  Later, Being There takes what was great about Monday and Outtasite, and makes it even better with the fantastic I Got You (at the End of the Century).  With its four vocalists belting out harmonic power for pretty much the entire song, it’s a pure celebration that’s impossible to not get caught up in.

While it’s the upbeat toe tappers from Wilco like Hotel Arizona that I generally find myself revisiting, there’s something about Jeff Tweedy’s voice that is just so perfect for songs about heartache.  Songs to like Being There’s disc one closer, Say You Miss Me.  It’s the same emotive voice crack that is also a perfect match for the big, open acoustic guitar chords of Sunken Treasure.

The sleigh bells, booming drums and bombast of Outta Mind (Outtasite) brings a lush beauty that is unique amongst the rest of Being There.  So many Tweedy songs are about the beauty of raw emotion, this one goes for more surface level perfection and it works a treat.  Especially as it leads into the cowboy, trail song simplicity of Someone Else’s Song.

Being There was the first of several Wilco records to include multi instrumentalist Jay Bennett.  And while Tweedy is no slouch on the guitar, I have to wonder if a song like King Pin would be as impressive without the rocking slide guitar and general groove provided by the multi six string attack.
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With its strings and soft organ arrangement, The Lonely 1 sounds like an elongated goodbye to the listener.  It’s the kind of quiet, stripped back sound with so much room and air, every sparse note feels all the more critical.  But Being There doesn’t go out on a downer.  Instead, Wilco bust out a fiddle fuelled, hill top rocker with Dreamer in My Dreams.  It’s Tweedy cutting loose in a way that doesn’t often find its way onto Wilco records, but seems like it should be a live show staple.  Few double albums justify their doubleness, but these last two songs are a great encapsulation of the variety on offer that makes Being There well worth it’s 80 minutes.

Wilco

Other Opinions Are Available.  What did these people have to say about Being There?
Rolling Stone
Sputnik Music
The A.V Club

8 thoughts on “MUSIC REVIEW | Wilco – Being There (1996)

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