Record Bulletin

Record Bulletin, 9/2: Wilco – “Alpha Mike Foxtrot: Rare Tracks 1994-2014” and “Star Wars”

What’s Your Roger?

Had a short hiatus there for a bit, but now I’m catching up. I’ve had a lot of really good music coming my way—newish stuff that I really dig, stuff I should’ve heard earlier, and stuff I’d dismissed stupidly and am now revisiting. Expect it to pick up here activity-wise for the next couple of weeks. At least hope so.

Wilco - Alpha Mike FoxtrotWILCO – Alpha Mike Foxtrot: Rare Tracks 1994-2014 (Nonesuch ’14): It’d require a paycheck for me to take the time required to go through this four-disc, 76-track comp of twenty years’ worth of live takes and outtakes, demos and doggerel to see if it’s worth the purchase, but A) if you’re that hardcore a connoisseur, you can probably say more about this collection than I ever could, and B) if you’re not that into them, a few words from an amateur isn’t likely to sway you. But what I can say is that being the super-casual Wilco fan I am, I have no problem letting these tunes roll out over the course of several hours as I bustle around my apartment using it as comfort noise—which outside of archive purposes I can’t imagine it being used for—something I have a harder time doing with the likes of Reznor’s Ghosts I-IV or any of the more recent Miles Davis bootlegs. Alpha Mike Foxtrot compiles the band’s life and evolution outside the studio, murkier and messier than their polished album-ready experimentation, and it comes with a 64-page booklet filled with liner notes, recollections on each track by Tweedy himself, and never-before-seen photographs (none of which, it should be noted, this reviewer received with his purloined download) to help document that evolution (presumably). Me? I like how immensely listenable Wilco are, how relaxed the compilation is, and how every now and then an earworm I forgot about from whichever disc wiggles its way back into my brain for a little while. Not a terrible way to spend thirty-two bucks. A MINUS

wilco-star-warsWILCO – Star Wars (dBpm): Unannounced and totally free, the beguiling name and cover artwork summate the ethos of Wilco’s ninth as perfectly as the skronky instrumental opener. Whereas The Whole Love felt meticulously planned—each of its short, spaced-out departures carefully executed—Star Wars feels largely improvisatory, with songs like “Pickled Ginger” spurting random bits of electric guitar masquerading as ‘solo,’ yet is well-rehearsed enough for everything to land safely. This is also their shortest release, clocking in at a little over 33 minutes. That’s for the best, because for as long as I’ve considered Tweedy a song man rather than a word man, only one jam here really bangs: “Random Name Generator,” whose lyrics are as nonsensical as anything else, suggesting as the title does that the lyrics were spat out according to Markov chains set to read the entire catalog of Jeff Tweedy’s gibberish phrases. A MINUS

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