Yeah, what about Wilco?
This will be quick, and occurred to me while mulling the presence of three Wilco albums on this community’s decade-ending list of bests or favorites or whatever such lists actually measure.
Quick history: Obviously No Depression took its name, in part, from the first of four Uncle Tupelo albums, and some of its formative history is to be found in the AOL folder renamed by Tupelo fans “No Depression.”
By way of both truth and digression, I was not particularly a fan of Uncle Tupelo. I did not own their albums until some point after ND began, at which point — trading in CDs — I acquired them from a used store in Santa Monica. (I was a fan of many other acts who were central to the magazine, and not a fan of some others. So it goes. So it went.)
Son Volt was the obvious choice for the magazine’s first cover; Wilco were the obvious choice for its fifth cover, beginning its second year of publication.
But for many of the subsequent years Peter and I had long, sustained, sometimes difficult arguments because Wilco’s musical choices took the band further and further from the central musical ideas which had led me to become interested in publishing a magazine. Whatever alt.country was (and perhaps still is), Wilco long ago cut the tether.
And so there would be occasions — the arrival of a new album, say — during which we would renew this discussion.
More truth and digression: I liked Son Volt, immediately. I grew tired of them because they did one thing really well, but nothing else for too long a time, and because they were not a captivating band to watch live. For me. Wilco…I respected, but grew increasingly less interested in. But, then, I wasn’t interested in anointing the American Radiohead, or whatever it was they became, in part because I’d long ago been through my prog phase, and in part because I didn’t think it had anything to do with the magazine I wished to publish.
Mostly, I guess, my point of view prevailed, though Peter managed to keep Wilco a part of the magazine, as he should have, in smaller ways. (The only book we ever excerpted was the Wilco book, for example. I wasn’t thrilled, and it was a late call, but I reckoned it to be one of the things our history obliged us to do, and Peter was right to have insisted upon it. I think.) It is also the case, if memory serves, that they didn’t wish to be closely associated with what was in many circles perceived to be a fanzine about, well, them. We weren’t a fanzine, and bridled then and now at the suggestion, but that’s not the point tonight. The other far more salient detail is that we didn’t grow at the pace Wilco did, and being on our cover — the litmus test for various things, including one’s magazine’s standing in the world — was not something that seemed desirable, best I remember, nor do I remember it having been offered.
Peter may remember differently, and may not have bothered to tell me anyhow.
My question, then, if you’ve come this far, is this: By what logic is Wilco’s music a part of THIS community, all these years and sounds after?
I have no position to take here. My voice is no longer of any particular consequence, and so I write from the shores of semi-retirement in the minutes remaining before my daughter must turn her lights out.
And so. The conversation is yours.