Wilco: Being There (1996)


JUNE 2009 IS WILCO MONTH AT SWEET GEORGIA BREEZES. WE’LL BE COVERING THE BAND’S RECORDED OUTPUT AND HITTING ON SOME OTHER THINGS ABOUT THIS GREAT AMERICAN BAND.

Wilco-BeingThereWilco
Being There
1996; Reprise Records

My Rating: 10/10

It’s difficult to overemphasize the importance and significance of BEING THERE. It is THE place to start for anyone new to non-CMT Country music. While there are plenty of great alt-country  records out there, and some might even be more consistent and concise at delivering on Gram Parson’s deposit of Cosmic Americana, BEING THERE ties in so many other influences that it transcends the genre, and hints at greater possibilities.

From the sad and swaying “Far Far Away” to the optimistic “What’s The World Got In Store”, Tweedy covers all of the requisite emotional bases, but it’s in going the extra mile on tracks like “Misunderstood” and “Sunken Treasure” that Tweedy delivers grand artistry, transforming the lives of suburban midwesterners into cinematic epics. Additionally, Tweedy proves that Wilco is capable of power-pop greatness with “Monday”, “Outta Site” and “I Got You (At the End of the Century”, roadhouse swagger  with “Forget The Flowers” and “Someday Soon”, teary-eyed nostalgia with “The Lonely One” and “Say You Miss Me”, and classic rock throwbacks  with “Hotel Arizona”. But it’s not just the songs themselves that make BEING THERE stand out – it’s all about the unpolished edges. From the numerous shouts of “Nothing!” in “Misunderstood” to the seamless segue of “Red-Eyed and Blue” into “I Got You (At the End of the Century)”, BEING THERE glories in the journey of making an album. 

That message – the experience of being there – eminates from both the songs AND the album artwork, which consists purely of photographs from the recordings sessions. Tweedy invites the listener to BE THERE with the band as they make a record, to be uplifted, moved, and changed, and to come away wanting to experience it all over again. In this, Wilco seems to have captured the essence of alt-country.

But for Wilco, after being lauded for this record, it wasn’t enough to rest on the laurels of making an instant classic. With a masterpiece under their belts, it was time to push the boundaries of the genre they had helped create.

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