Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Wilco Book

The Wilco Book is probably one of the bigger surprises I've had this year- what I thought was going to be an overpriced book full of crappy poetry is really neat.

Starting off with selections from Bern Porter's Found Poetry, the book seems to have the quality of a Wilco song, and reading the book with the enclosed CD playing feels so undeniably right. And then it moves into different anecdotes from band members about lots of things, featuring interesting pictures and artwork. The humor and good nature of the band shines through the book, and the first anecdote ends with a wonderful illustration of that- says Jeff Tweedy, "I wish we owned the whole building and all lived there, like the Monkees. And had a fire pole from floor to floor. It's not going to happen, though."

That kind of wonder permeates the book, as the overall artistic statement of the band's various works is explored by art itself- the two essays by Henry Miller and Rick Moody, being particularly deft and delightful wordplay. The book also has a section concerning the making of A ghost is born, which won Grammys for Alternative Album and Packaging. The Packaging statue is really what this entire book is about- it's not enough for Wilco to deliver just notes and words, but to present an entire work to be considered on multiple levels. The enclosed CD envelops the reader with experimental sounds and songs that maybe aren't very experimental at all, considering the excellent liner notes by engineer, laptop, and keyboard player Mike Jorgensen. And those liner notes, and a lot of the anecdotes go a long way into the band itself; the only real member of the band who gets press is Jeff Tweedy, the singing-songwriting head of the band, but then, they all help to write lyrics and create the music, and the thematic statements of the albums, proving that they are a complete collarboration, and accentuating each members' contribution to the music.

The entire book is great, and well worth the hefty price tag. Go out and get it. Oh, and Nels Cline is on the cover of this month's issue of Guitar Player in a neat little piece that focuses on this relatively unknown guitarist is quite the talented and accomplished musician. It's especially neat considering the huge change in the sound of the band between even when Nels first joined and now- listening to the bonus concert on ghost and then listening to a more recent concert, he is re-articulating familair music, in a good way. So, for those interested parties, both can be picked up at a book store, along with many other fine things.

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