"From 1945 to the end of the century, the United States attempted to overthrow more than 40 foreign governments, and to crush more than 30 populist-nationalist movements struggling against intolerable regimes. In the process, the US caused the end of life for several million people, and condemned many millions more to a life of agony and despair." .. (William Blum, ‘Rogue State’)
by Asaf Hanuka
Princess Mononoke (1997)
Harry Potter illustrations by Mary GrandPré
Street art in SE Portland
Wilco // War On War
Learn How To Die
I got Yankee Hotel Foxtrot for my eighteenth birthday, and I first used it to soundtrack the most mundane of civic duties: driving downtown to renew my driver’s license. But it ended up being a perfect companion. The music was as tangled as Dallas’ highways, Bertrand Goldberg’s Marina City as alien as downtown’s brutalism.
In Sam Jones’ fantastic I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, YHF is presented as art triumphing over commercialism, but not without very human consequences. Drummer Ken Coomer was unceremoniously dropped from the band, and Jay Bennett got pushed out after the stressful mixing of the record; Bennett and Tweedy never publicly repaired their relationship before the former died of a drug overdose in 2009. Warner wouldn’t release the record, so Wilco streamed the whole thing on their website before being picked up by a subsidiary of Warner a few months later. It’s the stuff of novels; the backstory threatened to overshadow the music itself.
“All the clouds of power pop are worn inside out to show the silver lining,” author Michael Chabon writes about Big Star. On YHF, those clouds and silver linings are in a precarious balance. Sometimes, the record feels like the ultimate power pop album: bright guitars and harmonies, yes, but laced with crushing sadness, that potent power pop recipe. It’s always reaching, yet forever stumbling over a discordant tape loop or dark thought. “Pot Kettle Black” climbs higher and higher and higher in its coda, only to fade into the penitent “Poor Places.” I’m not going outside—cue the numbers station.
Miscommunication lies at the heart, but a poignant line always shines through the gloom. “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” is all crossed-wires—American aquarium drinkers, Bible-black pre-dawns—before the hammer of the title falls. The record is psychedelic in the truest sense of the word. Sensory perceptions are stretched and distorted beyond recognition, each melancholic passage soothed with a euphoric burst of color. Tweedy isn’t above subverting his own subversion, sneaking in a nostalgic look at his St. Louis days (“Heavy Metal Drummer”) and as simple a declaration of love as you can get (“I’m The Man Who Loves You”).
My favorite trick on the record is the subtle fading in and out in the middle of a song, like the signal on some cosmic radio station. It’s done on “Ashes Of American Flags,” “Pot Kettle Black,” and “Poor Places,” and the album begins with the acoustic guitar slowly coming into focus amidst electronic whirring. Your brain takes awhile to catch on, and in the meantime, you’re left floating above it all. We’re all looking for some sort of transcendence in our lives, be it through religion, love, art, music. Wilco offers a thought: “You’ve got to learn how to die / If you wanna wanna be alive.”
Wilco // Muzzle Of Bees
High In The Haze
I love subtlety. My co-worker and I constantly have geek-out fests about Spoon. We’re both drawn to the band’s minimalism and subtlety because those characteristics make you work. Your imagination actively works to fill in all the cracks left by a mostly empty palette, and each listen is a new canvas.
A Ghost Is Born is remarkably subtle, oftentimes the complete opposite of the orchestrated madness of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. There’s an eleven-minute krautrock workout, too-quiet ballads, a fifteen-minute noise experiment that’s fucking called “Less Than You Think.” Everything is lesser—the equation “wilco ≤ a ghost is born” announces the record with a whisper.
After the chaotic Yankee Hotel Foxtrot sessions, I think Wilco opted to make a “back to basics” record but shot a little further. After all, this was a band that had come a long way; to put the cowboy hats and spurs back on would ring pretty hollow at this point. “Back to basics” became “less is more,” with the band members writing and rehearsing in the same room, together. The Wilco Book also details some pretty experimental sessions wherein band members could only hear one instrument at a time as they played. Parts were improvised with one hand tied behind your back, so to speak.
Little sonic details are the driving force on the record: the tape hiss between the beats on “Hell Is Chrome”; the piano chords two-thirds of the way through “Spiders”(still get goosebumps—starts about here); the twin guitar solos at the end of “Muzzle of Bees,” which is one of my favorite moments in their catalog. In a lot of ways, AGIB is even more inscrutable than YHF, resignation and cold detachment taking the place of the fucked-up-but-still-pop moments. From a technical standpoint, this might be the best-sounding Wilco record. The instruments are all recorded “warmly,” i.e. with no reverb and close-mic’d, but oddly enough, the record sounds dead (in a good way), like it’s being beamed from beneath a blanket.
This is probably a direct interpretation of Tweedy’s headspace at the time. The album’s release had to be delayed as he entered rehab for his drug addiction, and his persistent migraines got their own soundtrack on “Less Than You Think.” The lyrics are particularly harrowing throughout (even for Tweedy). Producer Jim O’Rourke encouraged more lead guitar from Tweedy—like he did in their Loose Fur days—but I don’t think anyone could’ve anticipated such anguished playing. On songs like “At Least That’s What You Said” and “Handshake Drugs,” it’s feral, nodding towards Neil Young and James Blood Ulmer but completely his own style.
AGIB is a perfectly imperfect record, undone at times by wonky sequencing—people either love or hate “Less Than You Think” and “The Late Greats.” But on some days—especially bitterly cold, grey winter days—it’s my favorite Wilco record (other days it’s YHF, and still others its Being There). Individually, the songs kill, classic-rock-informed but run through a really personal, dark lens. Like I said before, there’s some cognitive dissonance in deriving so much pleasure from someone else’s pain, but that’s rock-and-roll at its most elementary. “I can’t get no satisfaction,” and the crowd goes wild.
-And I’m Emily.
We make “funny videos” on the Internet.
-But soon, we might not be able to.
…net neutrality is in jeopardy. Net Neutrality is the principle that says ISPs can’t discriminate between different types of traffic.
That means that…
…whether you’re a bedroom music producer, a couple on an amateur porn site, or just someone with a start up idea - you get access to the same users as Netflix, Facebook or Amazon. On the Internet, anyone can succeed.
…America’s ISPs wanna set up a pay-for-play system where rich companies pay extra to get to those users first.
If this happens…
…instead of a wonderful playground if innovation that it is now, the Internet will become like cable TV where you can only get stuff that’s been pre-approved by a bunch of old rich guys.
Ten years from now…
…your Internet bill could be a bigger “fustercluck” than your cable bill.
Now, you might be thinking…
…isn’t the government supposed to protect me from fragrant doucheholery like this?
…the former chairman of the FCC (government agency that’s SUPPOSED to protect you) is now the cable industry’s head lobbyist. And another former cable industry lobbyist is now the CURRENT head of the FCC.
…we can’t trust the FCC to make the right decision on their own. That’s why WE need to protect the Internet we love. The chaotic, AWESOME, often quite weird, place where literally everyone’s voice can be heard.
In a few months…
…the FCC will approve this festering soal of proposal unless we speak up. The Internet is one of the few places where human voices speak louder than money. So while that’s still the case, let’s use those voices. Go to DEARFCC.ORG and tell them to protect Net Neutrality. Thanks for doing your part to protect the Internet.
Contact FCC at https://dearfcc.org/
IF DEARFCC.ORG IS DOWN, simply go to good oldhttp://www.savetheinternet.com/
All GIFS are courtesy of our new friend, RANDY!