TWEEDY: Streaming has obviously changed a lot about the music industry. Across the entire album, drums pound and plod with a steady one-two pulse, meant to mimic the movement of marching—a powerful act utilized on both sides of the authoritarian wall.
willkommen – Wilco Concert Setlists
In 2015, Wilco surprise-released a record called Star Wars,” a surreal assemblage of songs that had nothing to do with the legendary movie franchise. So, when the local husband-and-wife duo was attempting to name the latest addition to their cider lineup, their minds naturally drifted to one of their favorite bands, specifically its song Muzzle of Bees” from 2004′s A Ghost is Born.” That’s where their minds stayed, too. So Davis and Morgan reached out to the Chicago band for permission to use the title.
TWEEDY: And mine too. And if that was all I ever cared about, that would be all that we do, and we would have a much different performance style. But I feel so much of a responsibility, when I see that many people in one place. Oh no, they’re all looking at me, and we’re supposed to …” But we can actually do that. We can make some music, we can make a racket, that might make everybody smile. And that’s a fucking crazy thing to turn your back on, and I’ve never had the stomach for it. I’m not saying other artists are being callous or withholding. I think some people can’t do it, and that’s fine, and some people refuse to, and that’s a discipline that I just don’t have.
Ode To Joy is an album about seeking hope and meaning in a world that seems to be decaying beyond repair, so it’s fitting that Wilco saved some of the best musical flourishes on for the songs where Tweedy zooms out to reckon with the state of humanity at large. The staggering Before Us” builds from downtrodden whispers (Remember when wars would end? Now when something’s dead, we try to kill it again”) to monumental swells of beauty encircling the refrain, Alone with the people who have come before us.” The political Citizens” repeats the phrase white lies” until you’re forced to hear every possible meaning, all while the band builds nervous energy around a minimal groove. Lead single Love Is Everywhere (Beware)” uses guitar curlicues to poke holes in the notion that good will prevail without any effort on your part.
Kotche: Oh yeah. By far. You know, I never thought of those times as being that unhappy or that miserable just because there is dysfunction in a lot of bands. That was the norm when I walked into that situation. I said, ‘Oh, this is like all the other bands I’ve been in. There are fights and creative differences, people getting messed up. It was business as usual. Compared to where we are now, I think this lineup really gels. We really respect each other. Personally and musically, we get along. We have each other’s backs. It’s a much healthier situation. There are no wild cards in the band. Everyone has their act together. We’re fairly responsible. Five of us are married and well grounded, I think.
Wilco returned to their loft in Chicago to record a sixth studio album in 2006. Influenced by The Byrds and Fairport Convention , the band considered Sky Blue Sky to be less experimental than previous releases. 67 Also unlike previous albums, the songs were created as collaborations.
After the dissolution of the alternative country band Uncle Tupelo the remaining members of the band, Jeff Tweedy and John Stirratt, went on to form the beloved alternative rock band Wilco, which they based out of Chicago, Illinois, US.
After all, former bandmate Jay Farrar’s new group Son Volt – whose debut album, Trace, arrived six months after Tweedy delivered Wilco’s first LP, A.M., in 1995 – arguably made the better inaugural post-breakup record.
Wilco garnered media attention for their fourth album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002), and the controversy surrounding it. After the recording sessions were complete, Reprise Records rejected the album and dismissed Wilco from the label. As part of a buy-out deal, Reprise gave Wilco the rights to the album for free. After streaming Foxtrot on its website, Wilco sold the album to Nonesuch Records in 2002. Both record labels are subsidiaries of Warner Music Group, leading one critic to say the album showed “how screwed up the music business is in the early twenty-first century.” Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is Wilco’s most successful release to date, selling over 670,000 copies. Wilco won two Grammy Awards for their fifth studio album, 2004’s A Ghost Is Born, including Best Alternative Music Album. Wilco’s most recent studio album, Star Wars, was released on July 16, 2015.
Jeff Tweedy’s voice and guitar and Glenn Kotche’s drums build a foundation on which the rest of the band adds subdued colors. At times, it resembles a Tweedy-and-friends solo album, because the contributions of bassist John Stirratt, multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone, guitarist Nels Cline and keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen are relatively muted. Tweedy’s voice rarely rises above a conversational tone, as he delivers sparse lyrics in which personal wishes and insecurities merge with wary, if oblique, perspectives on the state of the planet.
Much of that has to do with production and arrangements that call back to the group’s studio-tinkering heyday. From the very first moments of opener Bright Leaves,” Glenn Kotche’s adventurous, shape-shifting drums are front and center in the mix, his cracking snare jolting life into songs that might have been insufferable dirges. Swaths of melody and noise build up and dissipate like passing weather patterns that occasionally become supernatural events. Ode To Joy mostly exists within the Bible-black predawn that fomented some of Tweedy’s finest slow-burn ballads; think Sunken Treasure” and In A Future Age” and Radio Cure” and Wishful Thinking” and the first Loose Fur LP.
I think there’s such a thing as a ‘positive negativity,’” says Tweedy. I can be a pretty irritable person. But I think there’s a value in taking the stuff that’s really frustrating you, really pissing you off, and making something beautiful, some kind of art out of that.” In Jeff Tweedy’s story of it, Schmilco is an irritable” record. Whether it sounds that way to your ears is a different story—your story, each listener’s story. Still, for all its uniqueness in the context of the band’s catalog, like all of Wilco’s records, Schmilco is not a new direction so much as a snapshot of a time and space in which Tweedy and company were working at the moment.
When you pre-order a copy of Ode to Joy from this store between July 16, 2019 and October 1, 2019, you will automatically become eligible to win prizes in a random drawing happening on each of the following Tuesdays at 3 PM, Central European Time: August 27, September 17 and October 1. Orders placed after 2:00 PM EST the day of the drawing will not be eligible to win until the following weekly drawing. Contestants can only win once. See here for full rules and restrictions.
CLINE: It’s gonna be a challenge, I think, initially. Because of what we’re talking about: dynamics, and a lot of people in a big space. But we look forward to such challenges. The sort of reverse version was coming out and playing Star Wars from beginning to end, which was pretty rockin’. So I think it’s OK to do the opposite.
I’ve seen Wilco numerous times over the years. The Ode to Joy show (2nd night) at the Wang Theater in Boston was excellent. The set list was nicely varied, with material from AM through Ode to Joy. The only shortcoming had nothing to do with the band – the people around us who preferred to to talk and use their smartphones during the show. Jeff Tweedy even made some funny cracks about people in the front rows on their phones.
TWEEDY: Right. And it’s partially because we’ve played it a lot, we’ve stood behind it. And that’s what I’m getting at. In the past, there was a middle period of the band—I don’t know how long it lasted, but I feel like it’s passed now—where we were much more self-conscious about the lull that you feel when you play a new song in the set. Ultimately, I’m a pretty sensitive guy. If I get my feelings hurt onstage, or something, I’m not gonna do that. And we gave up on a lot of the songs, earlier on. Maybe Wilco (The Album), and even The Whole Love. We might have given up on a few songs too soon.
TWEEDY: I’ve seen criticism where I get blamed for restraining you, or underutilizing your ability. And I don’t think that’s the case. You do so much of that expressive type of playing in your own work. Maybe I’m wrong, but I always felt like, after a while of being in the band, one of the things you really liked about coming to Wilco recordings was getting to play in a nuanced and textural way.
In its accompanying video, frontman Jeff Tweedy even punks the rest of the band in an elaborate and comical game of hide and seek in the shops and streets of Chicago. But by the end of the song, as a subtle wash of guitar noise from Nels Cline seeps in, the beats ramp up and the whole mood morphs toward darkness.
But then something happened over the next couple years: Son Volt got boring as Wilco got more interesting. Way more interesting, as you’ll see in our below list of Wilco Albums Ranked Worst to Best.
TWEEDY: Everything across the board is better from my perspective, for a lot of different reasons. Wilco really only had one record as part of a buzz cycle, maybe two. I’ve always felt a little bit outside of whatever cool-kid moment there is. I don’t know if other people see it that way. But even Uncle Tupelo at the time wasn’t cool, compared to Dinosaur Jr. or something like that.
Following his two solo albums, WARM and WARMER, and memoir, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), Tweedy gathered Wilco to The Loft in Chicago. While all six members of the band can be heard on every song, Tweedy and Glenn Kotche were the launching pad from which most of the songs on Ode to Joy materialized – Kotche’s percussion propels the music forward while Tweedy’s measured words flesh out the cleared paths. As a result, the album is comprised of really big, big folk songs, these monolithic, brutal structures that these delicate feelings are hung on,” as described by Tweedy. Across the entire album, drums pound and plod with a steady one-two pulse, meant to mimic the movement of marching—a powerful act utilized on both sides of the authoritarian wall. There’s also a sense of comfort that comes with the rhythmic marching sound.
I had never seen Wilco, nor was I familiar with their music, but 2 buddies of mine love the band, so I went with one of them to Radio City for a sold out show (6,000 seats). After suffering through the worst opening act ever, Daughter of Swords (indecipherable, boring and depressing), I was ready for something special. I listened to 3 distinctly different albums lent to me, and liked some, but not all. That was pretty much the story of the show – liked some, and others not so much. Some of their more discordant music sounds downright strange (to my ear) and incompatible with other more harmonious tunes. I would have liked Jeff Tweedy to talk to the audience a little, and perhaps offer some context to his tunes, but apparently he rarely does, and he didn’t on this night, either. In the end, after 130 minutes, All said, it was an interesting experience, if not my favorite first-time show.
Wilco (the album) (the picture disc) melds the 2009 album’s acclaimed music with the whimsy of the original photography on one vinyl disc. The band’s seventh studio album “is all about a great band playing great original music on an album filled with great songs,” says NPR. The Independent gave a perfect five stars to this “magnificent” album.
He found it awhile ago, of course. The Chicago rock sextet has now been a band — an acclaimed one, at that — for 25 years, and you can trace a lot of modern Music City history through their rise.
Tweedy wrote the songs that became Summerteeth at what should have been the happiest time in his life. Rather than sabotaging his music career, the breakup of Uncle Tupelo — his massively influential country-punk partnership with childhood friend Jay Farrar — had liberated him to pursue a vision entirely his own. He’d married his longtime girlfriend, Sue Miller, the owner of Chicago music venue Lounge Ax, and together they were raising a young son. The 1996 double-LP Being There had established Wilco as arguably the most talented and ambitious band in alt-country and helped Tweedy escape his reputation as Farrar’s plucky sidekick. His career was on the rise, his family life settling down.
TWEEDY: Ode to Joy” was a working title for one of the songs, I think either Bright Leaves” or Before Us.” And then it became the album title. At one point, I thought, I can’t call it that.” It’s kind of like Star Wars or Schmilco: It’s gonna be perceived as being ironic, or somehow underselling this work.
Summerteeth, released 20 years ago this Saturday, is Wilco’s contribution to a common trope in pop music history: The prettiest songs are often about the ugliest subjects. It comes up sometimes when discussing the work of Elliott Smith. Eva Hendricks from Charly Bliss has invoked it during the rollout for the band’s upcoming Young Enough. Hey Ya,” Semi-Charmed Life,” 99 Luftballoons” — three infectious bops about a breakup, drug addiction, and nuclear war respectively. Summerteeth exists as part of that lineage. It’s the most gorgeously ornate album Wilco ever made, and also the most disturbing.
But anyone who comes to Ode to Joy” expecting Beethovenian rapture and millions embracing will likely be perplexed by this enigmatic 11-song collection. The album is mostly slow and muted, as though, a quarter-century into its existence, Wilco had suddenly become suspicious of the whole idea of being a rock band. Drummer Glenn Kotche and guitarist Nels Cline are the most obviously reined in. Many of Kotche’s rhythms are heavy and square. Cline gets a couple of brief freak-out solos (in the bleak We Were Lucky”); elsewhere his work is largely confined to adding subtle washes of color to a largely acoustic texture. Every guitar is denied,” Jeff Tweedy sings in Quiet Amplifier,” a line that functions almost like a statement of purpose.
Wilco continues to release high quality albums and have appeared on many notable television shows such as Late Show with David Letterman and Saturday Night Live. In their free time the band also enjoys working on their side projects. Jeff Tweedy has been involved with the band Loose Fur, which features Jim ‘Rourke and Glenn Kotche, and is also involved in the band Tweedy with his son. Pat Sansone and John Stirratt have released several albums under their soft-rock band The Autumn Defense and Nels Cline is involved with his solo material.
Sonically, Ode To Joy feels like an extension of recent albums like 2015’s Star Wars and 2016’s Schmilco, which dramatically stripped down the sumptuous, retro-rock arrangements of 2011’s The Whole Love (which itself was presented as a kind of comeback record) in favor of something scrappier, stranger, and more spare. Like its two predecessors, Ode To Joy’s most prominent elements are Jeff Tweedy’s world-weary vocals, which voice philosophical musings on the nature of mortality and the salvation of familial love, and the always brilliant percussion of Glenn Kotche. On Joy, Kotche often downshifts to a deliberate plod, giving the songs a pulse-like rhythm that underscores the introspective melancholy of Tweedy’s songs.
The band’s forthcoming album, Ode To Joy, will be out October 4, 2019. The band will be touring Europe and North America extensively surrounding its release.
A lot of acts that sound fabulous on their CDs are disappointments live, and some even lip-synch to recorded tracks, but these guys are the real deal musically. On top of that, they keep their ticket prices low, but play for at least two hours, so you get your money’s worth and then some.
The music suggests a more complicated meaning. Sparse in texture and elemental in rhythm, it’s more like a somber meditation than a raucous celebration. Ode to Joy pulls Wilco far away from the identity as breezy life-affirming roots-rockers that they’ve inhabited on and off for the second half of their career, always with the impression of some reluctance. The album’s signature sound is the thwack of a snare drum, mic’ed so closely that you can practically hear the woodgrain of the stick, ringing out steadily through otherwise quiet songs about delusion, loss, and the faint hope of recovery. After the chiming leads that drive lead single Love Is Everywhere (Beware) ,” the most memorable guitar part isn’t a catchy riff or hook of any sort, but something like a free improv meltdown in the middle of a spaghetti western soundtrack.