The remarkable entity that is the band Wilco really knows how to celebrate an anniversary. Their debut album, A.M., turned twenty years old this past Spring, but their commemoration of two decades as a group really began late last year with a “best of” compilation and a boxed set of rarities. 2015 has brought a coffee table book of show posters, a film celebrating Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival and then the triumphant return of the festival itself. Oh yeah…and Jeff Tweedy and Co. seem to be on the road touring all the time. (You can of course check out all this stuff and make purchases at Wilcoworld.net.) If all that wasn’t enough for us already, July happened. On the evening of Thursday the 16th came the announcement of a surprise album, STAR WARS, which is still currently available as a free download. The following night Wilco performed the new material in i’s entirety and more as a headliner of the Pitchfork Festival in their hometown of Chicago. It was their week, and it turned out to be their month.
Through the wonder of Twitter, I read about the surprise release of STAR WARS that night and immediately provided my e-mail address for the download. After a short delay I was soaking it up on my screened-in porch. As with most of the group’s 21st Century output, the more that you listen, the more you will unpack and the more you will be rewarded. It struck me on this occasion, though, how few bands have remained relevant for two decades or more. Sure the Wilco line-up has changed through the years, but that makes it even more amazing that folks still care what the band is up to. Yo La Tengo might be the only other band that has endured continuously for twenty-plus years and remained really relevant in my book. Sure there are bands that I love that have been around that long — Mudhoney, Dinosaur Jr. and The Cynics come to mind if you overlook some hiatuses — but their post-heyday catalogs don’t have me reaching for their respective shelves in the collection all that often. There are bands with the longevity out there, but I am thinking of artists that have had consistently great output and keep us anxiously waiting to hear just what they’ll do next.
Wilco’s evolution has been well documented in print and on film so that’s not really what we’re here for. Of course this wouldn’t be a Greater Listening Area post unless we made it about me and how the music intersected with my experience. Wilco’s A.M. album being released just over twenty years ago is significant as I consider it the subject of my first published record review. That is, the first in a publication that I did not print by myself at Kinko’s.
The June 1995 issue of MOO Magazine out of Columbus, Ohio was where you could find it. My ramblings ran as part of a point-counterpoint feature that would kick off the review section each month. In this case I provided the “thumbs-up:”
Except for that last sentence which comes off as a bit of a cliché, I think it holds up pretty well. This particular review was a submission of my own because I was excited that a member of Uncle Tupelo was putting out new music, but I was assigned a few things for the issue as well. An LP from East River Pipe, a compilation from Tsunami and a 7″ single from the Smoothies were all part of my MOO debut.