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I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

This review pretty much says it all, but I've got chime in after seeing this movie last night at the Regent Theatre. If you're fan of Wilco or are interested in seeing parts of the music business actually operate, you should definitely see it despite its weaknesses. And Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is definitely strong enough to carry a film about its making and eventual release.

In one of the first scenes in the movie, we're driving around Chicago, and the first thing I noticed was that lead guy Jeff Tweedy has a SpongeBob Squarepants figure hanging from this rear view mirror. Check. I also liked the scenes of recording at their loft, especially since you get to hear different versions of the songs on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot that were then deconstructed and put back together again. In general, I think the best pop recordings can use the studio to the hilt, but there's got to be a solid live performance underneath or else it's just sterile.

It's really too bad the Jay Barrett left/was pushed out of the band. He co-wrote most of the songs on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Summerteeth, and constructed just as much of the current sound of Wilco as Jeff Tweedy. He comes off as the nothing-can-faze-me muso who could translate Jeff Tweedy's sometimes inarticulate wishes for the album into fully-formed production ideas. After the split, you definitely get the feeling that a lot of tension has gone, but perhaps Wilco could just turn into the Jeff Tweedy show. I just hope that Barrett finds success on his own, and the Wilco will continue evolve like they have over the past five years.

By the way, if you're local, you might to make the trek to Arlington Center for other cool events; I really hope the current management lasts. For example, they showed two trailers before the Wilco film. One was for the restored version of Metropolis, the groundbreaking film by Fritz Lang, now digitally restored and synched to its original score. Sure, trailers just show the good parts, but I couldn't believe the range of amazing range of imagery and themes that were flashing by. Man as cog in the industrial machine, the shining city of tomorrow, religion, a cyberbabe, a surreal collage of eyes, the rage of the mob, good old fashioned skin, and classic expressionistic silent-movie acting — Metropolis has it all. The other was for Satin Rouge, about a widowed Tunisian seamstress who becomes a belly dancer — two of the shows will be preceded by belly-dancing performances !

With events like this, who needs to go to Cambridge ?

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
marm0t
Sep. 21st, 2002 09:46 am (UTC)
I think I'm supposed to like Wilco more than I actually do.

Will I like this movie?
rpkrajewski
Sep. 21st, 2002 03:50 pm (UTC)
Well, grasshopper
I don't think you need to think Wilco is the greatest thing since sliced bread to take something good away from this flick, perhaps because there's enough interesting stuff in there, and any atttempt hagiography was not made, or perhaps was derailed by external events that no one was counting on. And since you're interested in the music business, it's a good slice o' life in that respect.

To help, I have prepared this handy-dandy table summarized details not address in my initial post:

Point Minus Plus
Band Chemistry Not much give and take when Barrett's not there. The drummer is kind of cute.
Clichés Do we really need to see Life On The Road again ? There's a reason why clichés exist; they are often true. And the band itself is true to themselves, which is the most important thing. It's not Behind the Music
Pacing Kind of goes flat after Barrett leaves. Still, more things happen in this than a lot of rock docs.
Outside World A woman is not in the frame until about 30 minutes into the movie. (Well, I guess music really is a boy's club.) Chicago architecture is fascinating if you're into that sort of thing.
Music If you have their stuff, there are no new songs. Fascinating alternate versions. If there were a soundtrack recording, any Wilco fan would buy it right away.
Bizness Is the record company really that bad ? Also, yeah, we already know a lot of the biz is banal. Still, it's the goshdarned truth. And I love the watching musicians work in a (mostly) relaxed environment.

Other fun facts:

  • I saw Uncle Tupelo, the band that Jeff Tweedy started out in, at the Paradise, opening for Hammerbox, about ten years ago. Back then they played high-octane folk/country-flavored punk and I was impressed.
  • There is evidently some connection between Jay Barrett and that whole Grays/Jellyfish/Brion complex. See this for a tantalizing clue. Perhaps you can fill me in on more details.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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rpkrajewski
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