Tuesday, March 24, 2009

box full of songs: Wilco 1994-1999

Ahh, the joys of self-publishing. I had this really nice, detailed (and lengthy, as usual) post all worked up about what I'd planned as the next featured band here on The PoIT, and this entry here isn't it.


Because I just wasn't feeling it, man.

I don't want to create any preconceived notions about that band I was going to blog about, so I won't divulge who they are. Just know that some entry, at any given point in the future (but not this band featured today), could be that already-written post about the band that just didn't strike me as post-worthy at the last minute.

However... by no means is this a substitute post, not at all. How could a post featuring one of my absolute all-time favorite acts be a substitute? There are almost zero bands I would suffer a cold Chicago January winter day outdoors, in line with nowhere really to go, all day from 7am until showtime at 8pm (maybe a bit later than 7am but it was definitely before lunchtime), for the chance to see them in a tiny, beloved shithole of a venue, performing as the world's greatest bar band.

Wilco, I did. And I'd do it again.

You know the story by now, or well you should. Smalltown act makes it "big" singing songs of the downtrodden man, carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders yet they're barely old enough to drink. Said band shatters on the precipice of fame, the two principals starting two new acts from the bloody remains. One act is said to be the torchbearer, the act the smart money is on to make it huge. The other act, well, we'll sign 'em too and see what happens, but who are we kidding?

The first act makes a record, the critics are falling all over themselves trying to see who can label it with the most superlatives, the songwriter is heralded as the second coming of, well, something.

The other act makes a record, it sells, but not with waves of tremendous critical acclaim. This other act takes their punches and cedes the first set to the first act.

The first act makes another record and while still really good, it doesn't really advance. More of the same but in different keys, so to speak. The critics love it too, but are a bit more reserved in their praise. Meanwhile, it doesn't sell appreciably more than the debut, in fact it may have sold less.

The other act regroups and recruits a fresh face into the band, a fresh face with amazing talent. With that new talent, they tour and make their second record. This time it's different. The world expects Debut Album Part II, instead the world gets Great Exciting New Beginnings, Part II. This time, it’s the other act the critics are fawning over, outdoing themselves with superlatives. The little band that could. Other band continues to record exciting albums, participates in a stellar project celebrating the words of perhaps the world's greatest folk songwriter, and continues to redefine themselves with every record.

The first act ends up sputtering to a halt, regroups time and time again, but nobody jumps for joy when they put a new record out. Well, not like they do when the other act does.

I'm sure you don't need me to spell it out for you, but of course the smalltown act that shattered on the precipice of fame would be Uncle Tupelo (from Belleville, IL, on the outskirts of St. Louis), the first new act would be Son Volt (led by Jay Farrar), and the other act would be Wilco (led by Jeff Tweedy). Farrar (he of the world-weary outlook, with that voice from the depths of time) was the smart money pick for the two post-Tupelo acts, his Son Volt was expected to become alt.country's Rolling Stones or some such nonsense. Tweedy's bastard stepchildren leftovers Wilco was expected to be entertaining, but not much beyond. So nobody would have predicted it would be Tweedy and Wilco critics rave about today and the music-buying public embraces, with Jay Farrar on the sidelines watching the world pass him by.

What is it about Wilco that is so spectacular? The lineage - the direct point A to point Z progression of their records - explains it all. The sound of Wilco's second record BEING THERE doesn't sound at all like the record that would logically follow the debut A.M. - it's as if we aren't hearing two records that came between them, that explain the giant, majestic leap in songwriting, emotion and rawness from record #1 to record #2. And it doesn't stop there either - each Wilco record is a sea change from the preceding record.

It doesn't hurt matters either that Wilco was involved in the Woody Guthrie archive project with Billy Bragg, where Woody's daughter Nora asked Bragg to set some unseen Woody lyrics to new, contemporary music, and Bragg thought Wilco was the perfect rootsy, post-Woody and post-Dylan act to help bring it all back home. The results speak for themselves - the two MERMAID AVENUE records are among either act's top sellers ever, and breathe new life into the dustblown Woody Guthrie legacy.

We will celebrate the music of Wilco in two parts. Part I will focus on the 1990s, starting with 1994's debut A.M. (and the songs surrounding it), and wrapping with 1999's SUMMERTEETH.

So... we present, in 3 RAR files linked below (as usual, gotta grab all 3 to extract):

Selected Wilco 1994-1999

01 The TB Is Whipping Me (Wilco & Syd Straw)
02 Promising
03 Box Full of Letters
04 It's Just That Simple
05 Passenger Side
06 Dash 7
07 Blue Eyed Soul
08 Thirteen
09 Misunderstood
10 Far, Far Away
11 Monday
12 Outtasite (Outta Mind)
13 Red-Eyed And Blue
14 I Got You (At The End Of The Century)
15 What's The World Got In Store
16 Hotel Arizona
17 Sunken Treasure
18 Someone Else's Song
19 The Lonely 1
20 California Stars (Wilco & Billy Bragg)
21 At My Window Sad And Lonely (Wilco & Billy Bragg)
22 One By One (Wilco & Billy Bragg)
23 Another Man's Done Gone (Wilco & Billy Bragg)
24 At My Window Sad And Lonely (Jeff Tweedy solo version)
25 She's A Jar
26 A Shot In The Arm
27 I'm Always In Love
28 Via Chicago
29 My Darling
30 In A Future Age
31 Student Loan Stereo

Yes there's a lot of Being There tracks, but it was a double record, and each track I pulled here is essential listening.


01 released on the Red Hot and Country benefit CD, 1994
02 is a demo recorded in May 1994, ultimately released in 2002 on the soundtrack to the movie Chelsea Walls
03-07 from the debut LP A.M.
08 written by Alex Chilton (Big Star), recorded and released in 1997
09-19 from the LP Being There, 1997
20-23 from the Wilco / Billy Bragg collaboration Mermaid Avenue (unreleased Woody Guthrie lyrics set to new Wilco / Bragg compositions)
24 was a B-side on the "She Came Along To Me" CD single from the Mermaid Avenue sessions
25-30 from the LP Summerteeth, 1999
31 was a B-side on the "Can't Stand It" CD single from the Summerteeth sessions

Next entry we will focus on Wilco's 21st century efforts. Believe me the story gets even more fascinating from here - they even made a movie about it!

So enjoy. Oh yeah.... you need links don't you ;)

Part I / Part II / Part III (need to grab each one)


  1. I have loved everything Mr. Tweedy has done. One of my first musical memories was finishing off a bottle of whiskey in the garage while blasting "Gun" just knowing that there was something like this out there made things better. Minneapolis hip hop is where it’s at! Nerve and DJ Arkitekt a new group out of Minneapolis that performs a hip-hop indie rock fusion with an album set drop this summer. Having opened for national acts like Muja Messiah and Eyedea, Nerve and DJ Arkitekt are ready to win over new listeners every day.

    Check out their music at http://www.myspace.com/nerveanddjarkitekt

    E-Funk Productions

  2. Part 1 seems to be removed from Mediafire (2 and 3 were o.k.). Could you please repost it?