Wilco: Album by Album

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Parachute Woman, May 11, 2020.

  1. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Greetings Wilco fans!

    I recently asked @mark winstanley if he would be okay with me taking the reins on a Wilco album by album thread, as it was one of those he was considering running in the future. He gave me the green light (thanks Mark!) so today I am launching the thread. Calling a few folks I know are fans and may be interested:

    @Lance LaSalle @Bill Diercks @ndoheny @Geee! @rancher @Zeki @Sprocket Henry @PearlJamNoCode @Phil Tate @Paranoid Android @Gabe Walters @Pawnmower @NettleBed @FingerPickin'Triumph @palisantrancho @Twelvepitch @moople72 @lightbulb @Crispy Rob @Maurice @tiger roach @jdrueke @audiotom


    As the cliche goes, Wilco rose from the ashes of pioneering alt.country band Uncle Tupelo following that band's split in 1994. One of UT's songwriters and leaders, Jay Farrar, formed Son Volt and released the critically acclaimed Trace. The other songwriter, Jeff Tweedy, took the rest of the final lineup of Uncle Tupelo and formed Wilco.

    Tweedy (vocals, guitar), along with John Stirratt (bass), Ken Coomer (drums) and Max Johnston (multi-instrumentalist) recorded Wilco's debut album A.M. in 1995. They got help from Brian Henneman of the Bottle Rockets on the album but he did not commit to the band full-time and Wilco brought in another multi-instrumentalist, Jay Bennett, for the tour and subsequent albums.

    While Son Volt initially got the better press and Jay Farrar seemed to be the Uncle Tupelo songwriter who would have the greatest success, Tweedy's Wilco followed up their solid debut with records of increasing complexity, experimentation and songwriting prowess. By 2002, Wilco had become one of the most acclaimed and respected American rock bands of the era. (And make no mistake, Son Volt has also made excellent music. It's not a competition)!

    As of 2020, Wilco are still together releasing new music and touring consistently. After several line-up changes during their mid-period, they have retained the same six-man line-up since 2007: Tweedy (guitars/vocals), Stirratt (bass), Nels Cline (guitars), Mikael Jorgensen (keyboards), Glenn Kotche (drums), and Pat Sansone (multi-instrumentalist).


    This thread will explore and celebrate Wilco's entire catalog, along with some of Jeff Tweedy's solo work. This first day will be for introductions (how you got into Wilco, etc.) and sharing general thoughts on the band and tomorrow we will begin with A.M. Today I will also share some key Uncle Tupelo tracks and encourage discussion of Tupelo as the lead-in for the main focus of the thread.

    { Table of Contents } (to be covered...)
    Introductions / Uncle Tupelo
    A.M. (1995)
    Being There (1996)
    Mermaid Avenue (1998)
    Summerteeth (1999)
    Mermaid Avenue Vol. II (2000)
    Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001/2002)
    A Ghost is Born (2004)
    Kicking Television (2005)
    Sky Blue Sky (2007)
    Wilco (The Album) (2009)
    The Whole Love (2011)
    Mermaid Avenue Vol. III/Complete Sessions (2012)
    Alpha Mike Foxtrot (2014)
    Sukierae (2014, Tweedy)
    Star Wars (2015)
    Schmilco (2016)
    Together at Last (2017, Jeff Tweedy)
    Warm (2018, Jeff Tweedy)
    Warmer (2019, Jeff Tweedy)
    Ode to Joy (2019)
  2. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    My Introduction
    I can’t say I was a fan of Uncle Tupelo or that I watched the genesis of the two bands that emerged from it with interest. In 1994, I was about six years old and mostly listening to Disney soundtracks. However, I can say that Wilco is one of my absolute favorite bands and I’ve loved their work for nearly two decades. I became aware of the group when I was in high school and rapidly becoming an absolute music fanatic. While half of my heart belonged to “classic rock” and music that was made long before I was even born, the other half of me was very interested in music of my own generation and albums that were coming out in real time.

    Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born were the two records that got me into Wilco and both were huge parts of my listening diet when I was 15-16-17 and discovering not only my own musical tastes but also discovering myself. Wilco proved to have staying power for me. I kept on buying their albums and I kept on loving them. In fact, I kept becoming a bigger and bigger fan the more deeply I explored and I am happy to say that their large discography has kept me interested and invested to this very day.

    The group appeals to me for a number of reasons, the chief one being Jeff Tweedy’s songwriting. I’m a fan of great songwriting first and foremost and I think Jeff has got ‘it’—whatever ‘it’ happens to be. I love his storytelling, the emotional transparency of his lyrics, and the way he finds melodies that feel familiar even as they break new ground. I’m a major Tweedy fan. However, I’m also very much a fan of all the great band members who have collaborated with Tweedy over the years to bring the songs to life and color them uniquely. Wilco is a special band in large part due to the ways they have explored sounds and arrangement over the years, which we will get to as we detail the albums. For me, it’s the perfect blend of inventive creativity and honest, emotional songwriting. I love a band that appeals strongly to the heart and Wilco does that in spades.

    They are one of my top five favorite American bands along with R.E.M., Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Steely Dan and the Doors.

    I’d love to hear how some of the other Wilco fans on the board got into the band (have you been in it since the Tupelo days??) Have you seen them live? I never have, unfortunately, but would love to someday. What appeals to you about the band?

    I’m going to share several of Jeff’s key Uncle Tupelo tracks today to show where he was as a writer and performer prior to Wilco. I like Uncle Tupelo okay, but mostly view them as the antecedent to Wilco. I welcome discussion from Tupelo from any who have a deeper knowledge/interest in them than I do!

    Here is ‘Screen Door’ from Uncle Tupelo’s debut album No Depression (1990), probably the first significant Jeff Tweedy composition.
  3. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    While 'Screen Door' is a gentle country number, 'Gun' from Tupelo's second album Still Feel Gone (1991) shows the more aggressive punk side of the band. It has a definite Replacements influence. It was played consistently throughout Wilco's tours for both A.M. and Being There.

  4. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    The third Uncle Tupelo album, March 16-20, 1992 (recorded on those dates) was produced by R.E.M.'s Peter Buck. It contained the mature and compelling 'Black Eye,' a song that showed Jeff Tweedy's clear growth as a writer and is an early example of his talent with lyrics. It runs only two minutes eighteen seconds.

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  5. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Finally, the fourth and last Uncle Tupelo album Anodyne, featured the strong rocker 'The Long Cut.' This song was performed live on Conan O'Brien in 1994 in the band's first national television appearance. It was a point of contention in the group that a Tweedy song was selected to be performed on the show (Farrar performs fantastic guitar all the same). The relationship between Tweedy and Farrar had been strained for some time and the band broke up not long after this performance.

    That's it from me to open the thread. I hope to hear from some of you out there!
  6. parman

    parman Vintage Rocker

    in the mitten
    When I was driving a big rig I would take the truck to a garage for repair work and there was a mechanic named Joe there who alway had music playing on a boom box . We started talking about music ( the White Stripes I think) and the next time I was there he had burned me a copy of YHF. I though it was the best new music I had heard in years. I quickly bought up the back catalog and researched the different members. Jay Bennett seemed inspired on the albums he was on but I think he left Wilco about the time they released YHF. I think Joe was actually a bigger fan of Son Volt but I never care for them as much.
    Maybe I'll dig out my CD's !
  7. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Pick up a fast car, burn my name in the road

    I first heard Wilco on Australia's national alt. Radio station JJJ, or triple J, whichever takes your fancy. It was tracks from the Summerteeth album and I liked them.
    I never followed it up though.
    2004-2008 was a rather traumatic time for me personally and I didn't discover much of anything. I sat in my little home studio consuming massive amounts of weed and tinkering.
    In 2008 I was invited to the US by a good friend who was trying to pull me out of my self imposed nonsense, and I spent the next couple of years playing music at Christian youth camps, and it may well be the highlight of my life. Through this I made some US friends and through them met my wife .... who is a huge Wilco fan.
    I first listened to YHF and to be honest, at first I didn't get it.
    By 2011 I had moved to the US and we got married, and I think either 2011 or 12 The Whole Love came out, and that resulted in a tour by the band, which my wife obviously had to see.
    We drove to Fayetteville to see them and I thought they were great. I highly recommend anyone who hasn't seen the guys live, to get out and see them.
    This led me to dive into the band a bit deeper.
    I grew to love YHF, Summerteeth, The Whole Love and the ashes of american flags dvd, for what it is.... but my favourite album was Being There.
    Since being in the US I have seen the guys 4 times in concert, which is equal to the most I have ever seen any band...
    I bought the rest of the albums last year to catch up with where they are at, and where they have been.
    I have listened to and enjoyed them all, but am still really digesting them, as I haven't had time to fully immerse myself.

    I am really looking forward to this thread.

    Thanks for running it @Parachute Woman !
  8. challenge

    challenge Forum Resident

    Springfield MO
    Huge fan I am with you one of the greatest American Bands. I'm from Missouri and went to Mizzou in Columbia starting in 1994 so I grew up with them. They are from the St Louis Area. Bought Still Feel Gone in 1992 when I heard Still Be Around on local radio.

    Uncle Tupelo was one of my favorite bands from the start. Gun is still one of Tweedy's best songs.

    I saw one of Wilco's first shows in late 94 or early 95 but never saw Tupelo. I continued to see Wilco probably 8 more times until 2004 time frame.

    My favorite shows were back at the Blue Note in Columbia in the 90's it was one of Tweedy's favorite places to play. Probably saw them like 5 times there

    Also for you Buzzcocks fans they used to cover Ever Fallen in Love and do it awesome
    Last edited: May 11, 2020
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  9. challenge

    challenge Forum Resident

    Springfield MO
    On Uncle Tupelo it is still amazing to me that you have two of the best modern song writers coming up in the same band.

    Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar have proved that over the years and you could tell right away they were special but their legacy has only grown more than I ever thought it could.

    Also if you are looking for a vinyl copy of Anodyne Rhino just repressed and it is a really good pressing.

    Uncle Tupelo - Anodyne

    That and Still Feel Gone are my favorite Tupelo albums
    Last edited: May 11, 2020
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  10. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Pick up a fast car, burn my name in the road

    A slight correction... it was the I Am Trying to Break Your Heart movie I saw.
    I got the Ashes of American Flags dvd later, good concert dvd too.
  11. challenge

    challenge Forum Resident

    Springfield MO
    New Madrid is my favorite off Anodyne a great Tweedy tune. New Madrid is a town in Missouri

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  12. palisantrancho

    palisantrancho Forum Resident

    Nice. Looking forward to the thread. I got into the band with Being There. I remember it absolutely floored me how good it was. At the time I listened to a lot of older music and was surprised there was a new band this good. It’s one of those albums I remember exactly where and when I heard it.

    I got to see them live many times, including Jeff Tweedy solo. I grew up in the Chicago area so was fortunate enough to see both Wilco and Jeff at the small club Lounge Ax that his wife Susie owned. Those shows were amazing. Seeing Jeff solo in that small room felt like I was experiencing something very special. When Lounge Ax closed I got to see Wilco do one of the last shows there. I believe they were playing under a different name. By that time Wilco had become pretty big in Chicago. I waited in line all day and made it in!

    I probably will not have much to add in the early discussions. I like Uncle Tupelo and AM ok, but it’s with Being There that I became a huge fan. This should be a good discussion!
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  13. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Yes, it truly is fascinating that those two guys even found each other. Jeff talks quite a bit in his book about the fact that he and Jay seemed naturally drawn together as two very shy guys who were really interested in underground music in this small Illinois town. Like many great songwriting partnerships, I think there was definitely an element of competition in their Tupelo days which pushed them both to grow as writers pretty quickly.
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  14. Balding Jay

    Balding Jay Well-Known Member

    Arlington, VA
    Thanks for starting this. I’m a huge fan of Wilco and I look forward to reading everyone’s thoughts on the band.

    I came to Wilco from R.E.M. fandom. In 2003 Wilco was going to be one of the bands opening for R.E.M. on their greatest hits tour, so I decided to check them out. (Wilco actually didn’t open the show I saw—that was Pete Yorn, who was also quite good—but I digress.). I saw that Peter Buck’s side project the Minus 5 had done a record with Wilco (2001’s Down With Wilco) so I bought that one and Being There. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit it but the only reason I bought Being There first was that it was a double album and I’m cheap.

    I was immediately blown away by the noise and chaos and beauty of Misunderstood, followed by the quiet and achingly lovely Far, Far Away. The whole album was a wonderful sprawling mess of different styles of music. I couldn’t put my finger on what I liked about it but I returned to it over and over. Later I went back and picked up the back catalog. Kicking Television was the first Wilco album I picked up on release day and I haven’t missed one since.

    I first saw them in 2007 at Merriweather Post Pavilion outside DC. They opened with A Shot In The Arm, which became my favorite live song of theirs. Over the past several years I’ve seen them a dozen times, including at the 9:30 Club at a show they filmed for the Ashes of American Flags DVD and at last summer’s Solid Sound festival.

    I love this band. They got me a lot more into live music—I used to be self conscious about going to shows alone, so I didn’t use to go to many, but I had to see these guys, and now I go to a bunch of different shows by myself. I also learned to get live shows from BitTorrent because I had to get a copy of the shows I’d just seen. Wilco opened up a whole new level of music fandom for me. I can’t thank them enough.
  15. tulumdedoo

    tulumdedoo Forum Resident

    Sky Blue Sky is one of the important albums of my life. It resonated with me through a separation and divorce, and again later during a reconciliation. There was recently a "perfect albums" thread on here and to me, that one comes close, although I know many will disagree...but on a personal level, just thinking about putting the CD into my player evokes many images and feelings from that time. Some are good, some are awful...but I wouldn't have it any other way.

    I was probably like many other Wilco fans in that it took me awhile to "get" YHF. My colleague and close friend bought it for me for Christmas and it didn't click until months later. "Poor Places" into "Reservations" similarly evokes a time and place in my life like very, very few other songs do.

    I know this band catches a lot of flack ("dad rock," whatever that is; VW ads...okay, I understand that) but I think they are the great American band of the 21st century. Their show in Rochester, NY, back on 12/6/2008 is the best live show I've ever seen; the encores were incredible. I bumped into Stirratt and Kotche after one of their MassMOCA shows and they were super nice guys. So in my book, this is a band that matters (to me, and to those in this thread, anyway).
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  16. HenryH

    HenryH Forum Resident

    Aw, man...
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  17. rancher

    rancher Unmade Bed

    Big Wilco fan here, since about 1999 ... I had to catch up on Uncle Tupelo and the first few albums plus the Mermaid stuff when I jumped on the train!

    My favorites from Jeff in UT were probably Gun and New Madrid. looking forward to talking AM soon!
  18. Rockford & Roll

    Rockford & Roll Forum Resident

    Midway, KY
    Hey now, this will be a real treat! I was into Uncle Tupelo and a lot of early alt-country. A buddy of mine was also into Tupelo and we were both really discouraged when the band broke up. It's funny, he initially really embraced Son Volt and was put off by A.M. I was the reverse. I liked Trace but liked A.M. quite a bit more, song-for-song. Being There blew the doors off for me! It is still one of my all-time favorite albums. I never saw Uncle Tupelo live but I did get to see both Son Volt and Wilco at small clubs in Lexington, Ky as they got started up. Thanks for doing this thread, Parachute Woman.
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  19. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Pick up a fast car, burn my name in the road

    You can do it mate. It's just one more :)
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  20. challenge

    challenge Forum Resident

    Springfield MO
    It's funny you say that as it was competition. It was a pretty fierce competition after Uncle Tupelo broke up. Wilco and Son Volt would come through to play the Blue Note every 8-12 months.

    Wilco came out with A.M and to be honest a lot of the Tupelo fans didn't really jump on it that much. Then you had Son Volt come out with Trace and it was no doubt a masterpiece and all the Tupelo fans just went crazy for it.

    I think this burned Tweedy a little bit at the time. So he hunkers down with Jay Bennett and they come out with Being There. I mean they just put the pressure back on Jay and Son Volt who did Straightaways but really Son Volt could never touch the magic of Trace again in my eyes.

    Then Wilco follows it up with Summerteeth and Mermaid Avenue and their greatness is solidified.

    It was very cool seeing this unfold in the 90's and getting to see each band every few months trying to keep up with each other.
  21. wavethatflag

    wavethatflag The West Coast bzfgt

    Pacifica, CA
    Great thread! It sort of blew through Uncle Tupelo, but this is a Wilco thread, after all.

    I read Greg Kot's review of Being There in Oct. 1996, bought the album, and that's how I started to get into Wilco. Aside from the obvious rockers, it took me a while to get into it. "Forget The Flowers" reminded me of Jerry Garcia.

    Years earlier I saw promotional material, posters, depicting the band for the latest Uncle Tupelo album, at Newbury Comics in Nashua, NH, and thought, "What a bunch of dorks!" I didn't get into them until way after the fact in 2006.

    Nov. 20, 1999 was my first Wilco show, but I didn't really go for them--I wanted to see the opener, the Old 97s. But Wilco was great. I couldn't get over the amount of cigarettes the band was going through on stage. At one point, Jeff was acting silly and started doing a strip tease in revealing his stomach. My friend Tom said, "That's just like you!" I guess I was a ham sometimes. After that show, I started buying the albums as they came out.
    Last edited: May 11, 2020
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  22. Jose Jones

    Jose Jones Outstanding Forum Member

    Detroit, Michigan
    I was introduced to Wilco by an early online friend in around 1999 or so. I saw them several times in the Y2K era---opening for REM;,in Toronto once with Old 97s as the opening act, a terrific show. Jeff Tweedy nearly bumped into my ex wife on the main floor there, walking quickly with his guitar case in hand. Saw them in Pontiac, MI for free at an outdoor summer something/other. Saw 'em at the Royal Oak Music Theater. To this day, Wilco is probably the act I have seen live more than anyone else.

    The first album I got into was the current one at that time, Summerteeth, then the subsequent albums as they were released. A.M. around the same time, and last of all, Being There. My interest in Wilco was strong for almost 2 decades, but their most recent album, unfortunately, is my least-favorite of anything that they have done. Maybe Tweedy had a premonition of what 2020 was going to be like....
  23. wavethatflag

    wavethatflag The West Coast bzfgt

    Pacifica, CA
    Nov. 20, 1999, Phoenix Concert Theatre. :D
    Last edited: May 11, 2020
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  24. frightwigwam

    frightwigwam Talented Amateur

    I was in college and had a radio show on the student station when No Depression came out. I loved "Graveyard Shift" in particular, and used to play that on the air a lot. When Uncle Tupelo splintered, I was one who expected bigger things from Jay. He had such a resonant voice, you could really feel it when he sang. And I felt like Trace was the stronger debut. I wasn't really that impressed by the first couple Wilco albums, and despite the good reviews for Summerteeth, I let that one pass by and didn't check in with Wilco again until the hype for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot finally wore me down. That one hit me immediately. The melodies combined with the fractured textural experimentation, Jeff's way with words, and his voice! Suddenly his voice really resonated with me, too.

    Tweedy has one of my most favorite voices, now, and I think he is one of the great songwriters of our time. His Together At Last showcase for some of his classic songs, stripped to the basics of his voice and acoustic guitar, deserved more attention. I think that I saw more acclaim for his memoir; it was a good read, but that's just a shame. I've never been able to see Wilco in concert, but I've listened to a lot of their live recordings, Kicking Television as well as boots. It must have been something to witness them in their prime. Probably still a lot of fun.
    Last edited: May 11, 2020
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  25. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    If you have any thoughts on Uncle Tupelo, please contribute! My focus here is Wilco but I didn't want to leave Tupelo out of it because it was such a huge part of the story. I wanted to leave the discussion open for any general or Uncle Tupelo thoughts for this first day.

    Oh, certainly the bands were definitely competing with each other. I just meant that we as fans don't have to pick one or the other and form tribes. We can like both. I'm definitely a Wilco fan but I bear Son Volt no ill will.

    So many great stories so far! :)

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