Thursday, May 17, 2007

Maybe the sun will shine today

This week has been pure Wilco overload. With Tuesday's release of their sixth proper album, Sky Blue Sky, reviews are everywhere. Some are glowing and some aren't. With almost everybody chiming in with their opinions, I'll keep mine short and sweet. I love it. It's gentle and very satisfying. All this said, I have yet to see any reviews of Shake It Off, the 45-minute documentary that comes with the deluxe edition of the album. Here are my thoughts in an unabridged form.

With a lot of these CD/DVD releases, you're more than likely to get short-changed. For five or six dollars more, you get some fluffy promotional material that is probably already on YouTube. Sure, it's cool to have this stuff on DVD, but how many more times are you going to watch it? Well, Shake It Off is definitely not some forgettable, fluffy affair. Far from it. If anything, it serves as a nice coda to '02's I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.

Sam Jones' documentary chronicles probably one of the most crucial times in the band's history. Seeing the band struggling to make a record, struggling with their record label and with themselves, it's still a really compelling look at a band in transition. That said, from a traditional storytelling angle, there really isn't a strong sense of closure by the final credits. In the case of Wilco's story, it's great that there isn't.

Cut in between studio performances of eight Sky Blue Sky songs, there are some really great soundbytes from the band members. Jeff Tweedy gets the most face time, but it makes sense since he's the bandleader. What's really refreshing to see is how healthy he looks compared to I Am Trying to Break Your Heart. Tweedy has always had interesting stuff to say; here, he comes across as a whole lot sharper and wiser.

From an aesthetic angle, the fact that this is in color is very important. Just like how the black-and-white film fits the mood of Heart, the use of color in Shake feels right. It's a nice, warm snapshot of a band creating another fine album. It's pleasant on the eyes and the ears.

I highly doubt that you could make a compelling feature-length documentary on Wilco now. In other words, Shake It Off doesn't scream for a 50-minute encore. The members are happy with where they are with their strongest (and tightest) line-up yet. And with Tweedy's recent excellent interview with the AV Club, I don't have any doubts about the future of the band. If anything, this is a band that I can believe in not just with music, but about life. ". . . anything you do is going to be a disappointment to somebody," he said. I couldn't agree more.


Zine-O-Phonic said...

Though I don't agree with the Pitchfork review entirely(I like the album, and I'd give it probably a 7.5 out of ten, using their scale). I laughed my ass off when he mentioned the solo from Either Way being straight from the weather channels local weather on the 8's.

Also, I'm a little miffed that I pre-ordered the album, and I still haven't received mine yet. It's better be there today.

stevie said...

I really don't think about Pitchfork as an authority at all, I just haven't been able to since Ryan Schreiber turned his obituary for Elliot Smith into a rumination on his own childhood.

That said, i was a little disappointed in Sky Blue Sky, but I know it'll grow on me. I like the Television guitar influence, though.

Eric Grubbs said...

I'm glad I didn't read that obituary. It would have royally pissed me off.

Funny you mention Television. Nels Cline seems straight out of the lineage of Tom Verlaine, Richard Lloyd and Robert Quine. I love his playing in the band. The solo he plays on "Ashes of American Flags" live is so powerful.