Tuning into Static

By Kyle Brown
Entertainment Editor
This is a new blog about all those bands your friends keep talking about while you, acting a fool, don’t lift a finger to try and see what the buzz is about. Now is the time for you to stop “respecting” bands and finally take a listen for yourself because you’ll do more than respect these bands when you hear what they do, or at least that’s my hope.

Wilco is a name that seems to get passed around in pop culture a lot, but no one really knows what it means. They were mentioned in Judd Apatow’s “Funny People” and How I Met Your Mother, and their music has been featured in multiple episodes of one of my favorite shows, Friday Night Lights (“Muzzle of Bees” was played twice in the episode where Tami Taylor gives birth to Gracie).
Wilco’s music is hard to describe to a non-listener because since their formation in 1994, their music has developed into several different genres.
They formed when Jay Farrar left Uncle Tupelo, a folk-country rock band, to start his own project, Son Volt. After Farrar’s departure, the rest of Tupelo became Wilco and came out with A.M. a year later, sticking to the country-alternative style Jeff Tweedy, one of Tupelo’s songwriters along with Farrar, had become known for.
From there, they have dabbled in several styles of music from jangly power pop to lengthy keyboard-featured jams (see “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” and its brother “Bull Black Nova”)  to slow country lap guitar ballads.
Wilco is one of those bands who can pull nearly anything off because they’re just so damn talented. Their drummer, Glenn Kotche, was a percussion intructor at Libertyville High School, which boasts on of the very best bands in Illinois, before joining Wilco. He also played on the drum line for the Rosemont Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps, one of the most decorated corps in DCI competition.
Nels Cline, their current guitarist, is one of the most talented men I’ve ever seen perform, If you had seen Wilco as many times as I have, you would know what I’m talking about.
The last time I saw them, I got close enough to the stage that I could see every little thing Cline did, and it’s enough to make your head spin.
While he’s performing his solos, which are not by any means simple, you can see him running all over the place adjusting knobs on his amp and pedals, flicking tone knobs on his guitar with his pinky finger, playing with the whammy bar quickly on a sustain right before he jumps into a wicked hot tear utilizing some two-handed tapping pioneered by Eddie Van Halen. Sure, he’s nowhere near as good as Van Halen, but he’s without a doubt one of the most versatile and knowledgeable guitarists out there with his subtle shredding and soulful blues.
Don’t think I’m about to leave out Jeff Tweedy, their singer and songwriter. His voice is for sure Wilco’s biggest trademark; it’s one of those things that’s recognizable anywhere. It’s the perfect mix of raspy, nasal and tonal, if not a bit on the raspy side. Don’t worry; it’s not as raspy as Bob Dylan‒the man can carry a tune at least.
The thing that stands out most about Tweedy isn’t his vocal talent, but rather his impeccable ability to write clever and beautiful lyrics.
In “Hummingbird,” a song off Wilco’s 2004 release A Ghost Is Born, he sings “His goal in life was to be an echo/The kind of sound that floats around and then back down like a feather/And in the deep chrome canyons of the loudest Manhattans no one could hear him/Or anything.” At other points in the song he includes ingenious phrases like “A fixed bayonet through the Great Southwest” and “A cheap sunset on a television set.”
If I said those lyrics don’t provoke thought every time I hear them, I’d be lying. Tweedy is one of the modern day masters of poetry‒his lyrics are literal enough for the listener to get a picture of what he means yet poetic enough  to be provocative, rhythmic and delicately beautiful at the same time.
Wilco is a complete package for anyone who enjoys music on the spectrum of country, folk, rock or blues. They have gone in plenty of directions over the years, but if someone was to pin their sound down to just a few artists’ influence, it would probably be an uneven mixture of Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, R.E.M. and the Beatles.
My only request with this blog is that you give some new music a listen. If you don’t check Wilco out after this whole thing, I’d start to think, as Tweedy would say, “trying to break [my] heart.”
Here’s 10 songs to start you off:

  • “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart”
  • “Heavy Metal Drummer”
  • “Casino Queen”
  • “Sky Blue Sky”
  • “Hummingbird”
  • “Outtasite (Outta Mind)”
  • “I’m Always In Love”
  • “Via Chicago”
  • “Wilco (The Song)”
  • “Either Way”