Saturday, October 30, 2010

Music Humane Society Saturday: "Being There" by Wilco

"I bought this album as a CD in the music section of Borders when I was nineteen.  Which was in the '90s!  Yeah, they used to sell music in round, shiny, disc form in stores," said Rob while stricken with a serious case of "good old days" syndrome.

Artist: Wilco
Year of Release: 1996
For fans of: The blending of rock and country, once referred to as alt-country--this is one of that genre's signature, standard-bearer albums.  Those songs about going home or back to someone and it's never quite the same and all the scars contained therein.  Albums with a mystifying mix of poetic breakup/heartbreak songs and songs that are infectiously fun--that somehow work.

Last night I maintained a stance that often sounds like an accusation.  Three years a generation gap does make.

Me: You claim Arcade Fire is the Radiohead of your generation.
Her: My generation?
Me: Yeah, your generation.  How old are you?
Her: 28.
Me: Yep, definite generation gap.
Her: How old are you?
Me: 31.
Her: Three years?!?  We're in the same generation.
Me: No, we're clearly not.  For me, 1992 was when music got good for me.  To you?  Like five years ago.
Her:  That's not true.  And besides, I love Radiohead!
Me: Sure you do.
Her: I do!  And I don't like Arcade Fire as much as Radiohead, by the way.
Me: Shut up.  I'm on a roll with this argument.

So yeah, that's essentially how that "discussion" went last night with a couple of drinks in me.  But it's true. A generation gap has to occur somewhere along a line of time and there have to be points in history where people only a few years apart are members of different generations.  So I'm planting my flag in this claim, plugging my ears, and saying "Watermelon, watermelon, watermelon!" to any and all critiques of this.  Like a grown-up.  

A prime illustration of this comes with the way that Wilco's great discography is typically judged by fans of these different generations.  If I was a twenty-something growing up in the Pitchfork Media hipster-tainted generation of today where albums create a meaningful impact equal to the amount of time they are trending topics on Twitter, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot--no doubt a fine album with an even better backstory--would be adjudged to be Wilco's pinnacle of artistic achievement.  The album was certainly a testament to the band's conviction and principles in a record industry that lost its way--as well as a collection of abstract, well-crafted, noise-filled gems.  But for those of us who had giant compact disc (I've linked it in case you don't know what that is, kids) collections long before the age of high speed internet and album ratings with a pretentious decimal point, and of course those of us that love Wilco, Being There is still tops.  Wilco's magnum opus is a lush, meticulously-built album full of music made by musicians playing musical instruments.  And while that seems like an insultingly apparent statement, keep in mind today's musical landscape.  It is a statement of purpose and intent--just like the album.  Skilled guitars, pianos, strings, percussion combine with the vocal heartbreak, longing, and hope of a generation both inspired and broken by music to create something more than just a record.  Being There is a sheer, undeniable event reflective of all those moments that define and destroy us all at once.  Listening to this album gives me the same feeling I had watching The Wonder Years.  The moments aren't specifically yours, but yet somehow you've been there and you can touch those times all too easily.  It's not a sad album.  It's not a happy album.  It's not an angry album.  It's not a love album.  It's an album that--just like your life--is all of it and none of it and more of it and less of it and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Don't get me wrong, I celebrate Wilco's entire catalog.  But I think I'm right on this one.  Or I've cleverly used this whole generational argument to make the case that no matter what claim I make, my membership in a particular group correctly guides and directs an opinion that--if you disagree with it--you're wrong about because you just don't get it because you're not "in my generation, man".  Either way, I'm a genius.  Maybe a diabolical genius, but a genius nonetheless.  And so is this album.  Get it, says your leader.

MP3 Link: Amazon

Rob's Favorite Song: "What's the World Got In Store"

Lyric of Possible Relevance:

"There's rows and rows of houses
With windows painted blue
With the light from the TV 
Running parallel to you.
But there is no sunken treasure, 
Rumored to be
Wrapped inside my ribs 
In a sea black with ink."--from "Sunken Treasure"

1 comment:

  1. how is it possible that you have not yet been scouted to write music reviews for magazines, etc? clearly, your blog is relevant to me and many other of your followers, but you need to be getting this stuff out to the masses. i suggest you send some of your reviews to rolling stone and paste at the very least. i love your reviews AND your writing voice, so i'm sure everyone else will as well. xoxo