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Tangled up in blue
The American interior has long influenced the music of Wilco. But frontman Jeff Tweedy, a confirmed member of liberal 'blue' US still feels deeply alienated from his nation’s conservative heartland.
Craig Fitzsimons, 02 Feb 2006
Though it took them a long time to make the leap from merely interesting to indisputably first-rate, Wilco have justified the wait.
Their first genuine masterpiece, 2002’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, was a work of delicate, breathtaking beauty. The band’s sparse, silently-deafening range of sonic dynamics were worthy of prime Velvet Underground, or an Americana-drenched OK Computer.
Lest anyone suspected they’d shot their load on that one, Wilco continue to evolve into a mighty force. Kicking Television, their marathon double-disc live CD, was the best and most honest live record of 2005, from the instant of Jeff Tweedy’s hushed intonation ‘Dreamed about killin’ you again last night / And it felt alright to me.’
Increasingly political, as ‘Ashes of American Flags’ demonstrates, Wilco’s appreciation of Woody Guthrie doesn’t just extend to the sounds. They’re radical storm-the-White-House lefties, whose mainman Tweedy, reticent and not especially forthcoming on the subject of his music, can and will talk politics all day long. Like (best estimate) 50% of Americans, he’s yet to fully come to terms with the cabal of spooks currently holding the reins of power, and overflows with apologies to the rest of the globe for the way things have turned out.
”I think we (Wilco) have felt a duty to get more overtly political than we’ve ever been,” Tweedy confides. “I get dumbfounded sometimes. There’s lots of seemingly intelligent people in America supporting something that is inherently wrong.” These people are, he says, motivated by fear that America’s future position in the world is bound to be diminished. And they’re fighting tooth and nail, in terror, to hold on to what they have.
“They don’t want to give up their SUV’s, their lifestyles, their concepts of freedom, their oil. They’re addicted to a lifestyle that involves using the rest of the world’s resources, that’s not going to be sustainable for very much longer. And like an addict, they know that day is coming, they can sense it. As a political body, America is like an addict on the side of the street, heavily in denial, doing everything possible to preserve its way of life, at the risk of knowing there’s a better future."