While You Were Sleeping # 17: Wilco's Being There

I

know what you're thinking. How can you say a band that released a

double-CD on a major label (Reprise) got swept under the carpet? It's

not that Wilco's excellent sophomore effort, Being There was ignored by

their label, or lost in any shuffle, I mean, it's about as easy to lose a

double-CD as it is to forget about that elephant in the corner, but that's

precisely the problem. While everybody was fretting over the arrogance of

former Uncle Tupelo guy Jeff Tweedy's decision to release a 19-song slacker

opus on two slabs of plastic, not as many people concentrated on what was on

those slabs, namely, some fucking awesome good old fashioned rock 'n' roll.

Even if the set only had two classic songs on it, which it most certainly

does in the dual-epic disc-openers, "Misunderstood" (disc 1) and "Sunken

Treasure" (disc 2), both of which take the listener on a melancholy journey

through folk, noise rock and Beatles "A Day In The Life"-type studio trickery,

it would still be worth your time. As it is, Tweedy and the boys rip off no

less than half a dozen classics, from the shambling Super(tramp) rock of "I Got

You (at the end of the century)," to the Dead-like "Forget the Flowers" and the

cowfunk of "Kingpin," so funky Tweedy admits even he doesn't know where that

extra touch of soul came from. While Tweedy's ex-Tupelo mate, Jay Farrar, sinks

deeper and deeper into No Depression bummer country, on this effort Wilco

strike out for new territory, blending pedal steel with tape loops, dobro with

radio sampling and mandolin with strings and horns to create a New Depression

sound that remembers what it felt like to turn on the radio and just groove to

whatever was on, whether it was a wistful ballad ("Hotel Arizona") or a Faces,

shake it loose jam, ("Dreamer in My Dreams"). Because sometimes it's okay to

just play rock 'n' roll. -- Gil Kaufman