Review: ‘Wilco: Learning How to Die’

51T9ueCpjRLWilco: Learning How to Die chronicles the history of experimental rock band Wilco. Written by Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot, the book opens with bandleader Jeff Tweedy’s small-town beginnings and goes on to cover Uncle Tupelo’s career and the birth of Wilco. There is very little information online about Tweedy’s childhood, so Learning How to Die’s opening sections were invaluable. (For me, it was like reading like a superhero origin story.)

Pivotal Tweedy moments, like his introduction to Jay Farrar and their subsequent formation of Uncle Tupelo, are detailed. I’ve never really gotten into Uncle Tupelo, but their legacy is undeniable, and learning about their formative years widened my appreciation. Tweedy and Farrar’s songwriting process was particularly interesting. Their professional relationship was a minefield of warped expectations and miscommunications, and it grew increasingly volatile as the boys’ egos developed and the band’s star rose. Quotes from those closest to them are also included. These offer a broader picture and made an oft sensationalised rivalry richer and more nuanced.

The Wilco narrative here unfolds chronologically, with each half culminating in a major conflict: Tweedy versus Farrar, and Tweedy versus Jay Bennett. Since these incidents are well-documented, even casual Wilco fans will anticipate them, giving the book a great quasi sense of tension. Continue reading

My Favourite Music of 2013

One thing that sucks about no longer having a Facebook page is that I can’t share my annual list of favourite music. Then it occurred to me: hang on, dickhead! You’re a super serious blogger now! You can share all them opinions you have! (I got lots. Seriously, it’s a veritable weed infestation up in here.) Strictly speaking, this post isn’t about literature. I’m sure you gathered that by the title. I decided not to hamfistedly relate any of this back to the writer’s journey, or talk about inspiration, or any of that crap. Frankly, I think we’re past all that.

Been a pretty good year for music, at least as I see it. Much as people like to mourn the apparent death of good music, I’m still finding artists who excite me on a regular basis. People like to act like there’s a finite amount of good music out there, but in my experience that just isn’t so. All you need to find it is an open mind and a willingness to research.

I went to like ten shows this year. Pretty good, I think, for a casual fan on a student wage. Even had this crazy streak going for awhile where I didn’t once double-up on any of Melbourne’s music venues. I think that’s a testament to the great music culture in this city.

This year I continued to educate myself on all the great music of yesterday. I also took several brief respites from rock (my genre of choice) — although my most-played newly discovered artists, The Antlers, The Dears and Dan Sultan, weren’t far from my comfort zone. Curiously, I didn’t listen to a lot of folk or alt. country this year. I guess those genres and I needed some time apart. It’s cool, though; I found other avenues for mopey music. Maybe next year, alt. country. Been listening to a lot of Soulive lately. They’re a jazz organ trio. The album I have (Doin’ Something) is ineligible for this year’s list, but it deserves some love, so check it out. Continue reading