Schmilco Review

First of all the name. Wilco gets some credit for the amusing self-deprecation. The name was likely intended to lighten the mood of the album. Tweedy’s lyrics are emotional and personal, more so than any recent Wilco and maybe ever. Consider these lines from the first song on the album “Normal American Kids:”Oh, all of my spirit leaked like a cut / I knew what I needed would never be enough / I was too high to change my bid / Always afraid to be a normal american kid.” Themes of childhood, growing up, and trying to be happy are present lyrically throughout the album. In this way the album feels quite introspective and honest.

Musically, I found the album a bit boring. Largely acoustic, the songs all sound pretty similar. I didn’t find it as artistically interesting as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (an aside: YHF is one of the 20ish CDs I keep in my car which only plays CDs, so I listen to it and love it a lot.) Schmilco is super mellow and great easy listening but lacks enough musical variation to really capture the listener’s attention. Locator (9th song on the record) gets kinda noisy towards the end which lends a bit of interest.

Regardless of my quibbles the album is worth listening to if not at least for the title. He makes fun of “We Are the World” in track 11, “We Aren’t the World (Safety Girl)” which made me laugh a little. With songs like that, the album title, and the amusing album art we can’t really be sure how serious Wilco is taking themselves right now which I kinda like. But also the lyrics are sometimes quite serious so I’m not sure what to make of everything.

Okay this is a pretty mediocre review, but I have to write a paper.

Idiot Wind

I love this album. I love this song. I love Bob Dylan. I’m going to miss listening to Blood On the Tracks in my lovely little car in the San Francisco fog (Karl).

Even you, yesterday
You had to ask me where it was at
I couldn’t believe after all these years
You didn’t know me better than that
Sweet lad-AYYYYYYYYYYYYY

Idiot wind
Blowing every time you move your mouth
Blowing down the back roads headin’ south

I’m Not There: Reviewed

This film is required viewing for anyone who even KINDA likes Bob Dylan, folk music, and/or great cinema. Ironically and hypocritically my dear father had been telling me to watch this film for years, and I’d been blowing him off until the other night my friend Kavi also demanded I watch it. Two was enough, and I caved.

Directed by Todd Haynes, I’m Not There breathlessly and beautifully chronicles bits and pieces of Dylan’s life. Six different exceedingly talented and brilliant actors play Dylan in the film, an approach that highlights the many faces and lives of Dylan, who is, in my mind, the most complicated and also frequently over-simplified artist of our time.

The different Dylans show different parts of our greatest poet: the troubled husband and father, the eager child, the tortured artist, the born again Christian, the lonely mountain man escaping life, and the eerily wise beyond his years storyteller. Cate Blanchett, interestingly, plays the most recognizable Dylan during the time before and after Dylan goes electric. She gracefully inhabits a struggling, awkward, self-conscious and unhappy young Dylan. Each Dylan shows us something different and often things previously unknown.

The film-making is spectacularly gorgeous. Each Dylan shows us different colors of life. Young Dylan lives in a yellow-y dreamworld while the tortured musician lives, of course, in black and white. The camera work is equally intriguing and unique, panning over the audience and pausing frequently to show us the candid expressions of random onlookers and fans.

And the music of course. The Dylan songs chosen are so well chosen that the film risks coming off as a little cheesy in certain moments, but ultimately the songs enhance both the literal messages and the artistry of the film. Example: Simple Twist of Fate is playing and Dylan and his wife, Claire, are at the park which cues, “They sat together in the park / As the evening sky grew dark / She looked at him and he felt a spark / Tingle to his bones / ‘Twas then he felt alone.” The scene changes and Claire is alone at a party and Dylan is paying her very little attention which cues, “People tell me it’s a sin / To know and feel too much within / I still believe she was my twin / But I lost the ring / She was born in spring / But I was born too late / Blame it on a simple twist of fate.” As I said, risks being obvious, but ultimately works well.

Just like Bob Dylan this film is anything but predictable. It takes a windy road through Dylan’s life that surprised me at every turn. Watch this film!

Morning Track

I love Wilco so dearly, and this song makes me happy.

I left you behind I know its been along time, but I’m not over you
Don’t forget the flowers someday, I hope I do
You’re tryin’ my patience, try pink carnations, red roses and yellow
daffodils
Don’t forget the flowers someday
I know I will
Don’t forget the flowers someday, I know I will

Reading the lyrics I realized it’s actually kinda sad.

Dylan for Sleep

This strikingly beautiful recent Dylan (released in 1997! the year I was born!) is a must listen. His raspier, grown-old voice sounds so rich and lush. Makes me cry. I feel so blessed I got to see him just a month ago at the Greek with my lovely family. He’ll always be my favorite poet, and he better live god damn forever.

There’s not even room enough to be anywhere
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there
Well my sense of humanity is going down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing, there’s been some kind of pain

She wrote me a letter and she wrote it so kind
She put down in writin’ what was in her mind
I just don’t see why I should even care
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

Morning Songs

I was having this discussion
In a taxi heading downtown
Rearranging my position
On this friend of mine who had
A little bit of a breakdown
I said breakdowns come
And breakdowns go
So what are you going to do about it
That’s what I’d like to know
You don’t feel you could love me
But I feel you could

A man walks down the street
It’s a street in a strange world
Maybe it’s the Third World
Maybe it’s his first time around
He doesn’t speak the language
He holds no currency
He is a foreign man
He is surrounded by the sound
The sound
Cattle in the marketplace
Scatterlings and orphanages
He looks around, around
He sees angels in the architecture
Spinning in infinity
He says Amen! and Hallelujah!

If you’ll be my bodyguard
I can be your long lost pal
I can call you Betty
And Betty when you call me
You can call me Al
Call me Al

At the Bottom of Everything

I love Bright Eyes and Conor and this god damn song. Every lyric is really beautiful. I actually was trying to choose a few verses to quote, but I couldn’t so here’s the whole song. The song is this weird perfect blend of sadness, angst and jubilant joy. Please enjoy it like I do. (aside: I didn’t include Conor telling the plane crash story that’s the intro to the song, but it’s not because I don’t like the intro (I love it!); I just didn’t include it.)

We must talk in every telephone, get eaten off the web
We must rip out all the epilogues from the books that we have read
And in the face of every criminal strapped firmly to a chair
We must stare, we must stare, we must stare

We must take all of the medicines too expensive now to sell
Set fire to the preacher who is promising us hell
And in the ear of every anarchist who sleeps but doesn’t dream
We must sing, we must sing, we must sing

And it’ll go like this, alright:

While my mother waters plants, my father loads his gun
He says death will give us back to God
Just like setting sun
Is returned to the lonesome ocean

And then they splashed into the deep blue sea

Oh it was a wonderful splash

We must blend into the choir, sing ecstatic with the whole
We must memorize nine numbers and deny we have a soul
Into this endless race for property and privilege to be won
We must run, we must run, we must run

We must hang up in the belfry where the bats and moonlight laugh
We must stare into a crystal ball and only see the past
Into the caverns of tomorrow with only our flashlights and our love
We must plunge, we must plunge, we must plunge

And then when we get down there,
Way down to the very bottom of everything
And then we’ll see it
Oh we’ll see, oh we’ll see it, we’ll see it-

Oh my morning’s coming back
The whole world’s waking up
All the city buses swimming past
I’m happy just because
I’ve found out I am really no one

California

I’m back from LA. It was a truly lovely trip. We went primarily to see the Mapplethorpe retrospective at LACMA and the Getty. The exhibition was absolutely gorgeous. We were also fortunate enough to see Rain Room at LACMA which was totally other-wordly. We also ate very well and saw some sights. Us Californians are lucky to have two cities as incredible as San Francisco and LA. Joni thought so too! I love Joni Mitchell dearly. My mother is a fantastic musician and always sang me and my brother Joni when we were little. California was always one of my favorites.