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Friday, July 16, 2010

120. "A Magazine Called Sunset" by Wilco

In the end Wilco kind of pisses me off. And I loved them, truly I did. In the fallowest period of the '90s and on a whim I picked up a rilly cheap used copy of Being There and was pretty well floored by it. It was rock and roll, and it was good, and it had that good rock and roll feeling I hadn't felt since, let's say, the heyday of the Replacements. The band and its lineage-- I had missed Uncle Tupelo the first time around-- stood me in good stead for quite some time, as lineups changed and critical darlinghood peaked, culminating in what I thought was a fascinatingly rough-hewn semi-masterpiece in A Ghost Is Born. Some very intriguing krautrock influences were peaking through, and there were Television- and Crazy Horse-inspired passages that seemed inspired, and the lyrics were going places. They added Nels Cline, one of my favorite oddball guitarists, for the tour and then as a permanent member, so I'd hoped for more out-there adventures on the first record featuring him as a full member...

... but Sky Blue Sky was an abomination to my ears. Bland, inert, uninspired and uninspiring; comparisons to '70s soft rock did a serious disservice to Glenn Campnbell and America, and the faux-soul numbers were just about unlistenable. On the online mailing list I've tended to call home for many, many years, both of the other major Wilco fans agreed with me completely, and I felt sure this was a quantifiable bomb. But to my amazement, people liked it. It ended up on tons of end-of-the-year Top 10 lists and to this day I see it cited as a career highlight. And this is unusual for me. It's a rare work that's widely appreciated in which I can find no value whatsoever even if I don't like it, particularly by one of my favorite artist, but here it was. I slogged my way through the whole records another few times after the praise started pouring in, but somewhere in the first ten minutes I could still feel rigor mortis setting in. There was no hope. And then within a year or so, one of the two ex-fans to whom I alluded above suddenly and tragically passed away, at last notice still as disdainful of Nu-Wilco as ever, and that to me sealed it. If she wasn't going to get to hear anything else by the band that might restore her faith, why should I?

Anyway, this one's for Natalie Jane.

Personnel: Rex

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