Tag: Chicago

MUSIC REVIEW | Wilco – The Whole Love (2011)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “A logical and satisfying step forward from Wilco (The Album).

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As the awesome documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart showed, Wilco was a band that never let their record label exert too much control.  The entire narrative of that movie is them sticking to their guns and being dropped from their label because of an unwillingness to compromise their vision of what would become their major breakthrough, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.  But even with what I assume was plenty of freedom, they did spend a lot of years making music on someone else’s dime.  Until The Whole Love, the first Wilco record released on the band’s own label.  So, what did that mean for the sounds of a long running, critically praise band with a fervent, faithful fanbase?

With Glenn Kotche’s clockwork drums ushering in some ominous, synth the lush, mysterious soundscape, Art of Almost is like no other Wilco song to have come before.  But as soon as Jeff Tweedy’s unmistakable vulnerability comes in with the vocals, The Whole Love is immediately Wilco record.  And the first five minutes in no way hint at the awesome, blistering rock that’s to come in the final two or three minutes, courtesy of Nels Cline and his scorching guitar work. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Wilco – Wilco (The Album) (2009)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “It’s even more optimistic and upbeat than I remember.”

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A band self titling a debut album always seems lazy to me, or like a missed opportunity.  How could you already be out of ideas, or over the novelty fun of coming up with cool, fun, crazy stuff, by the time you’re naming your first record?  But a long running band self titling an album well into their career, with plenty of other releases before that?  To me, that’s interesting, that’s a band making a statement.  Like when Metallica did it with the record that just so happened to make them one of the biggest acts on the world.  Or when the Beatles did it with what is still seen as one of their best, and one of the best of all time from any band.  So what did it mean when Wilco went with Wilco (The Album)?

The title is already casual and playful in a way that I don’t think people would really associate with the band’s work before this time.  Calling the opening song Wilco (The Song) pushes that casual playfulness even further.  Building it on a peppy beat and dancing riffs, all in support of lyrics like, “Wilco will love you baby” all builds to a song declaring the kind of mission statement that makes me love a long running band self titling an album well into their career. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Wilco – Sky Blue Sky (2007)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “Hearing Sky Blue Sky now, I feel like this record and this solidifying of the band is the clear beginning of the today’s happier, more optimistic outlook.”

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And thus it came to be, Wilco in its most consistent form was born.  After various comings and goings of band members, including Jay Bennett being sacked because, “A circle can only have one centre” (Tweedy, 2001), the tour for 2004’s A Ghost is Born saw the addition of multi instrumentalist Pat Sansone, and guitar soundscape evil genius, Nels Cline.  Forming the version of the band that still exists today, their first studio effort together was Sky Blue Sky.

All pretty tinklings and gentle but upbeat vocals, Either Way and You Are My Face ease the record in.  Until the latter gives way to Cline’s aggressive, hard hitting guitar sound, leading to some vintage soul grooves.  Cline often looks like he’s trying to break his guitar while he plays it, and the short, blistering moments where he cuts loose here sound like a strings should be snapping with every single note.

Talking about the writing of Sky Blue Sky, Tweedy said, “I got nervous about the technology on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.  If you need a certain amp or pedal to make a song what it is, it isn’t a song.”  And I really think you can hear that.  A song like Impossible Germany is perfect in its simplicity.  It doesn’t sound like bits and pieces assembled and perfected in ProTools.  It sounds like band of real people, playing a song, in a room together. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Wilco – A Ghost is Born (2004)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “There is a sound to this record that I feel like I can still hear to this day on subsequent albums.”

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Two main things happened to Wilco in the wake of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. One, multi instrumentalist and Jeff Tweedy collaborator / nemesis Jay Bennett was gone.  And two, the band had gone from being critical, alt favourites, to genuine super stars.  Sure, they weren’t all of a sudden churning out top 40 hit singles, but they were now well and truly international headliners.  So for the first time, the band wasn’t only under their own internal pressure to make something great, they also had a bigger audience than ever looking in from the outside, waiting to see where they went next, with A Ghost is Born.

From its morose, piano lead opening minutes, to the dirty, distorted guitar march that follows, At Least That’s What You Said makes it clear that a bigger audience didn’t mean Wilco was all of a sudden going to water things down to please them.  With John Stirratt’s pumping bass, and Glenn Kotche’s tight drumming on a seemingly endless loop, Spiders (Kidsmoke) almost sounds like a piece of electronica.  Even Tweedy’s vocals have a metronomic, automaton deadpan.  Until it turns into some of the most straight ahead, riff heavy guitar rock I have ever heard Wilco produce in the studio. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “In a way, it’s like Wilco are leaving the odd, ambiguous thread hanging, letting the listener fill in the gaps of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot for themselves.”

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Here we are, the album that introduced me to Wilco.  But I wouldn’t say it introduced me to my love of Wilco.  I remember it being released and being raved about for a long, long time.  In 2002, I was too deep into my Reel Big Fish and Tenacious D obsession to find time to actually listen to these soft, acoustic, country tinged sad sacks.  But when the praise had gone unabated a year or two later, I caved in and listened to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot…  And I thought it was the pretentious work of soft, acoustic, country tinged sad sacks.  Another year or two passed and I saw the documentary that covered the making of the album, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.  All of a sudden, I got it.  I re-listened to the record immediately after watching the movie, and I have been a Wilco fan ever since.  So any excuse to revisit Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is always a good thing.

As much as I love it now, hearing I Am Trying to Break Your Heart lead things off reminds me why I didn’t quite get it as a loud music obsessed 22 or 23 year old.  It’s so meandering and empty in places, with Jeff Tweedy almost whispering some of the lyrics through a slack, lazy jaw.  The tinkering toy piano, the arrhythmic drums, the extended length.  All of that seemed like such a wank to me back then.  These days, they’re all the exact same things that make this one of the songs I revisit most often. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Wilco – Summerteeth (1999)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “It’s pure Wilco, presented in a really unique way, and I loved it.”

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From reading the Wikipedia entry for this record, it seems like Summerteeth was more of a collaboration than other Wilco albums before and since.  I get the impression that Jay Bennett was a bit of a multi instrumentalist for hire on Being There, brought in to help Jeff Tweedy realise the songs he heard in his head.  Whereas their next release was made by Tweedy and Bennett collaborating and writing together in the studio.

While the current incarnation of the band is by far the longest established and most solidified version in their history, I think the music is still clearly Tweedy’s vision, with the others helping make that a reality.  So it’s the idea of Jeff Tweedy relying so much on someone else’s contributions and sensibilities that had me most intrigued about Summerteeth. (more…)

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. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Wilco – A.M (1995)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says; “Tweedy pulls it off effortlessly.”

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These days, Wilco are the kings of white, middle class dad rock.  I say that as a massive Wilco fan.  I might not be a dad, but I’m a white dude closer to 40 than 30,  who was willing to pay a whole lot of money for pretty crappy seats last time the band came through Melbourne.  I don’t think it would be an overstatement to call Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy one of the leading, scene defining troubadours of a generation.  But 20 years ago, he was the dude from Uncle Tupelo (the indie darlings who never quite broke big) who had started a new band.  A band called Wilco, who announced their presence with A.M.

While I Must Be High is standard guitar pop/rock stuff, Casino Queen lives up to the alt-country tag that was attached to this band for a long, long time.  It’s roadhouse, country rock with blues harp paired perfectly with its country fiddle.  The group vocals also make it a song begging for a live crowd to sing/yell along to. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Liz Phair – Exile in Guyville (1993)

When I was a teenager, Liz Phair first got my attention because she was smoking hot. I thought her songs were OK, but she was hot enough that even if she just screamed into a mic, like some band destroying, talentless succubus, I still would have thought it was amazing. Now that I’m a little older and more mature, I actually like her music. It still doesn’t hurt that she was then, and is now, smoking hot. What does that have to do with her debut album Exile in Guyville? Not much, but I had to write an intro.

In the 90s, I only knew Phair from the singles that got solid Triple J airplay a couple of years after Guyville, so I only knew the more polished, alt-radio friendly hits.   Listening to it now, I can understand why she made such an impact at the time. Here’s this not so great voice, this not so great guitar playing, and not much else, that is elevated so much by her presence. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Drinking Buddies (2013)


What kind of movie is Drinking Buddies?  I just finished watching it and I really don’t know the answer to that.  It’s not that Drinking Buddies is complicated and I don’t understand it.  It’s so not complicated that even calling it simple seems like an understatement.  It’s got laughs, but I wouldn’t call it a comedy.  It’s got a couple of emotional eruptions, but I wouldn’t call it a drama.  It’s all hand held camera work, semi improvised dialogue and rough lighting, but I wouldn’t call it indie.  Maybe if I get into the plot synopsis, a better genre classification will come to me.

Jake Johnson from TV series New Girl plays Luke, a dude in his thirties with a mid-arm tattoo, bushy beard and penchant for trucker’s hats, who works in a Chicago micro brewery .  But he’s not a hipster.  The movie makes this very clear by having his girlfriend Jill, (Anna Kendrick) literally say that.  Also working at the brewery is Olivia Wilde’s Kate.  She’s the perfect woman as invented by a male screenwriter.  She’s super hot, but really down to earth, loves that she works at a brewery and loves going out for beers with the guys even more.  She’s not the perfect girl for just anyone, she’s the perfect girl for Jake Johnson’s character.  But as you might remember from two or three sentences ago, he has a missus in the form of Anna Kendrick.

Right about now, I bet you think you know how this movie plays out.  Well I think you should maybe slow your roll.  Because I’m quietly confident you have no idea how Drinking Buddies plays out.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s no huge twist, revelation or any kind of story telling revelation that will change the face of cinema forever.  It’s just a peculiar little movie that will surprise you in a few peculiar little ways.

The title, trailer, publicity photos and almost everything about Drinking Buddies point toward a romantic comedy.  You know, the kind of romantic comedy that tries to hide it’s clichés and redundancy by setting its story in some current fad, like, oh I don’t know, a micro brewery?  But this movie doesn’t go for that low hanging fruit either.

Writer / Director Joe Swanberg is one of the pioneers of the whole “Mumblecore” movement.  Whether “Mumblecore” actually exists or is just an annoying buzz word movie execs used a decade ago to sound like they were on top of the latest trends, anything associated with it seems to come with a certain aesthetic.   An aesthetic I just kind of find underwhelming.

The characters are believable and unremarkable in a very true to reality way.   The story is believable and unremarkable in a very true to reality way.  The world it takes place in is believable and unremarkable in very a true to reality way.  And in the end, that all leads to a very and unremarkable in a very true to reality way movie.

Some of that may sound a little snarky or like I don’t like the movie, but that’s not the case.  I did like Drinking Buddies.  I think…  Mabye…  Yeah…  Actually, I’m not sure.  I don’t know if I’d say you need to see this movie, but if you told me you were thinking about it, I wouldn’t try to stop you.  Meh.

Drinking Buddies
Directed By – Joe Swanberg
Written By – Joe Swanberg