Wednesday, June 3, 2009

take the guitar player for a ride

Nels Cline and Devin Sarno - Rise Pumpkin Rise (listen) I just re-watched I Am Trying to Break Your Heart again followed by Ashes of American Flags last night and observed that one would feel like King of Rock to have Nels Cline in your band. The thing I observed about Wilco and their avant garde leanings and Jeff Tweedy's dissertations on the meaning of folk music and Woody Guthrie is, yeah, OK, you can pull it all off pretty well, but none of it compares to how good they sound when they are being The Smartest Bar Band on Earth which has always been their strength, and from the looks of it, where the band is having the most fun.

Duilleux/Lutoslawski - Cello Concertos (listen) All this made me think back to a conversation I had with someone recently about in vs. out music: is out music a reaction to in music, or is there something intrinsic to it. As a fan of both with a strong leaning toward out, I think there is a very important point there. A lot of people I have me that are into out music are seemingly indiscriminately so - just as long as it doesn't sound normal, it sounds good. I was once one of those people, and its valuable to spend a little time defining what you are not but at some point you have to look away from the fences and discover what you are. Its all about playing to strengths and good music is, among other things, music that exhibits those strengths, whether it reinforces a long-running paradigm or breaks it is of little importance. For instance, there are a million things a classic R&B song does better than this relatively little-known (compared to your R&B song anyway) Lutoslawski cello concerto, but the finest of Motown cannot telegraph dispatches from the void with the acuity Lutoslawski exhibits. A screwdriver, if engaged as such, makes a lousy hammer.

Wilco - Wilco (The Album) But perhaps just because you've always used a hammer and nails to get the job done, doesn't mean you shouldn't look into screws as a fastener option and maybe at whatever other tools you have at hand. You don't know what you might build then and you might just find a better strength than the ones on which you and others have always relied.

I will however temper this declaration of exploration's merits by noting Wilco (The Album)'s thesis statement/opening song's structural resemblance to "Werewolves of London" the most textbook example of smart bar band rock ever.

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