Wilco & Rush Review

This week on Sound Opinions Jim and Greg are joined by one of the most important bands of this generation: Wilco. The alt-country pioneers/avant-garde rockers join Jim and Greg for an interview and performance just in time for the release of their highly anticipated new album, Sky Blue Sky.

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In recent months Sound Opinions has been covering the new royalty rates internet radio broadcasters are facing. Their May 15th deadline has been pushed to July 16th, but many webcasters know that they are just postponing the inevitable. Anticipating outrageous royalty rates that will put many people out of business, Pandora founder Tim Westergren decided to close down his service to users outside of the United States. The U.S. Copyright Royalty Board's rates combined with that of international collection agencies is too much for even an internet titan like Pandora to contend with. This indicates that even with support from the Senate, the digital music landscape is not a pretty one right now.

While Americans seem completely oblivious to it, probably the biggest international music news of the week were the results of the Eurovision Song Contest. The Serbian ballad "Molitva (Prayers)," performed by Marija Serifovic, took the prize home, surprising many. In fact, as with American song contests, the Eurovision results are not controversy-free. Jim and Greg, however, are not as interested in how the votes were obtained or who the winner should be, as they are in the next step for Ms. Serifovic. With the exception of Abba, Lulu, and possibly even Lordi, most of the contest's winners have remained relatively anonymous. On the upside, Serifovic's victory brings levity and unity to a country with other very important issues on its plate.


Getting all six members of the band Wilco on the show is no easy feat. But, this week Jim and Greg were able to snag an hour with the band just before their first U.S. performance in support of Sky Blue Sky, their sixth studio album released last week. The men all met at Northwestern University's Patten Gymnasium, but aside from the shoddy acoustics, it was a treat for all. Those not familiar with Wilco's story, should check out Greg's book Learning How to Die. But, by now, most have heard about the trials and tribulations of Jeff Tweedy and his often-changing cast of characters. The current cast includes Tweedy, John Stirratt, Glenn Kotche, Nels Cline, Mike Jorgensen and Pat Sansone. The members of Wilco are all great musicians in their own right with a number of side projects, but, as they explain to Jim and Greg, there is nothing like collaborating with band mates (or living like The Monkees).

A lot has been said about the fact that between the recording of A Ghost Is Born and Sky Blue Sky, chief songwriter and lead singer Jeff Tweedy went to rehab to deal with prescription drug dependency and depression. In fact, with its intense fan base and media scrutiny, there's not a lot about the band that hasn't been said. The question is posed as to whether or not Jeff's recovery affected the music. But, he explains that the biggest effect is just feeling physically healthy. Still, as Jim notes, you can't help but sense a more positive outlook on Sky Blue Sky -- a tone that Jeff attributes to maturity more than anything. Listen to the tracks "Side With the Seeds," "Sky Blue Sky," and "What Light," and you be the judge. Then check out the exclusive bonus track, "You Are My Face."

Snakes and Arrows Rush

Snakes & Arrows

After much prodding, Jim finally convinced Greg to slate Rush's new album Snakes and Arrows as the record review for this week. And listeners who enjoy a good session of Kot vs. DeRogatis won't be disappointed. Sound Opinions fan know that Jim has a soft spot for the classic progressive rock band, and this week he declares drummer and chief songwriter Neil Peart the greatest drummer living today. He even compares watching Peart drum to what he imagines it would be like to watch God create the Grand Canyon. The question now is whether or not the band, which had its heyday in the 1970s, is still relevant. Jim argues that they are, and gives the album a Buy It. Greg thinks all the classic Rush elements are on the album, including the massive drumming and Geddy Lee's high pitched vocals, but it's Peart's overly-philosophical lyrics he takes issue with. Greg wonders where the passion is, and can only give Snakes and Arrows a Burn It.


A lot of people, including Jim and Greg, have brought up Bob Dylan's The Basement Tapes when discussing Sky Blue Sky. Dylan and The Band recorded those songs in upstate New York in 1967 after Dylan retreated from music. The musicians gathered in the basement of a house they called "Big Pink" and started jamming, much as the men of Wilco did in their practice space on Chicago's Northwest side. Dylan describes the kind of music they played as something you can sit down to play, but also something that makes you lean forward a little. It's subtle and intimate, but not without a sense of urgency and passion. You can really hear this in the song, "This Wheel’s On Fire," making it Greg's Desert Island Jukebox pick for this week.

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