Monday, December 21, 2009

Wilco - Being There

Wilco – Being There
Sire/Reprise, 1996
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2006
Price: $15

When Uncle Tupelo and Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy put out albums with their new bands, it looked that Farrar's Son Volt was going to be the horse to put one's money on while Wilco were only gonna go down after their pretty lackluster debut AM. Fortunately, it was the opposite, and Being There is the precise moment when Wilco become Wilco. Where Wilco really established themselves as thee force of rootsy American music. It starts with a motherfucking statement if there ever was one: “Misunderstood.” The first time I saw them live they played this as their second encore. I was scared they wouldn't play it, because having heard the live version on Kicking Television, I knew it was amazing and I needed to live through that. I was alone, too, and I would have been extra sad. There's a video I took, and you can hear me yelling at the “nothing! Nothing! Nothing! At all part.” That was a great show.

The rest of this album is pretty fantastic too, and thing is, the first disc is so good I neglected the second disc for a good year and a half before actually realizing it is also really fucking good. Disc 1 though, still wins I think. It's got elements that Wilco would carry with them to Summerteeth (“I Got You (At the End of the Century)”) and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (the epic quality of “Misunderstood”), and it's got that rootsy, lapsteel inflected alt-country they put on the map. Maudlin ballads like “Far, Far Away” and “Red-eyed and Blue” are executed with a kind of sadness only Jeff Tweddy can deliver. “Say You Miss Me” always pulls at my heart strings because I think I said those lines to someone before I ever heard this song. Then there's the pure pop joy of “Outtasite (Outta Mind” that drew me into this album and the countrified “Forget the Flowers” which I still have a soft spot for. Disc 2 has “Sunken Treasure” though, and after “Misunderstood” it's probably the second best song on the record. Jeff Tweedy's live version is the best though. I got to see him play in Tulsa in 2007 and it was kind of a religious experience, in particular when he played “Sunken Treasure” (although the mic-less version of “Acuff Rose” played at the edge of the stage was pretty phenomenal too). Disc 2 is a little quieter, and I think that's why it took a while to catch on. “Someone Else's Song,” “Kingpin,” “(Was I) In Your Dreams” and “The Lonely 1” all kill though. It's kind of hard listening to this record though, knowing what the world has in store for Wilco. It's like a giddy excitement, knowing that this simple alt-country is going to release a decade-defining record in 2002.

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