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Friday, 14 September 2012 18:20

The 10 most overlooked, under-appreciated and/or neglected Wilco songs

The 10 most overlooked, under-appreciated and/or neglected Wilco songs
Written by Dani Kinnison
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With Wilco playing in Columbia, Mo. this weekend, I've been wondering if any of these 10 overlooked songs will make their way onto the band's set list.

Wilco fans: What song do you most want to hear?


"Hate It Here"

"Sky Blue Sky" had no shortage of excellently crafted songs, but it seems as though "Hate It Here" gets over-shadowed in the mix. The rhythm's a bit more solitary than the rest of the album, and it matches the lonely life Jeff Tweedy sings of when he says, "I try to stay busy, I do the dishes I mow the lawn/I try to keep myself occupied even though I know you're not coming home."


"Comment (If All Men Are Truly Brothers)"

Wilco's not a band that is quick to step on a philosophical platform sans metaphors or artistic license. But on this cover of Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band's "Comment (If All Men Are Truly Brothers)" (from the live album "Kicking Television") the band does just that. The steady-going piano and subtle, smooth guitar picking gives it a congregational feel as Tweedy's vocals steadily increase to a sing-shout as he demands an answer: "Society, how can you teach/if you don't practice what you preach?" What could have sounded preachy instead is a manifesto of honest inquiry.


"My Darling"

Wilco's sometimes been referred to by critics, fans and music magazines alike as "dad rock." They probably aren't thinking of this song when they say that, but this part-lullaby, part-ballad is so soothing and a bit melancholy, that it's difficult not to imagine Tweedy or any of the band members singing this to their children. With the plea "Grow up now, my darling/But please don't you grow up too fast/ And be sure, my darling, to make all the good times last," the attempted tranquility and peace of mind are achieved by the end of the final verse.


"She's a Jar"

Another song from "Summerteeth," "She's a Jar" is a poetically sound song, which isn't uncommon on the rest of the album. Tweedy's vocals tip-toe the border separating sung from spoken, and the organ matches the haunting and slightly unsettling mood that bubbles up from the surface. It's slow and a bit droopy, but it doesn't drag its feet.


"The Thanks I Get"

The crunchy guitar riff and melody coupled with the upbeat, bluesy syncopation makes for a crisp song about good old-fashioned resentment between lovers, albeit one-sided. It's no secret that most musicians pen songs about love at one point or another, but "The Thanks I Get" is a satisfactory musical interpretation of division, resolving the introductory question of "Is that the thanks I get for loving you?" with "We can make it better/ Let's put ourselves together and start it again." Now, if only all quarrels could be solved in four minutes...


"Dreamer in My Dreams"

Found on Wilco's second album, "Being There," "Dreamer in My Dreams" is a great glimpse of the band's early years, with its Americana roots and experience fully intact. This song is seven minutes of pure rootsy grit. The raw violin leads the way throughout the song, with more than a few times of squealing out higher notes. The jauntily played keys and rough acoustic guitar work adhere messily while Tweedy doesn't sing, but howls himself into a minor coughing fit at the song's end, but not before an all-out jam session. This song isn't clean, but it goes and goes.



On an album full of studio tinkering, the simplicity found in listening to "Reservations" is stark in comparison to the rest of the tracks. It can be argued that "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" put Wilco on the map for many people. "Reservations" makes you feel like you're in the middle of nowhere with only a few piano chords, muffled percussion and just some sparingly arranged studio sounds. To be able to make a simple song as powerful as "Reservations" is not an easy feat. "Reservations" also unsurprisingly is a great lyrical example of Tweedy's signature melancholia from the very start: "How can I convince you it's me I don't like?"


"Passenger Side"

In a similar vein to "Dreamer In My Dreams," "Passenger Side" is off Wilco's debut album, a record that embodies the band's connection to Uncle Tupelo and Americana music. The wobbly, back-and-forth tempo serves the storytelling nature of the song well as Tweedy's gravelly voice explains, "You're gonna make me spill my beer if you don't learn how to steer," a scenario that's not unimaginable in small towns of southern Illinois.



Off of "Being There," this song is an early departure from the sounds of "A.M." and the beginning of the band's love affair with sound layering. What's great about "Misunderstood" is that it begins slow and quiet, with only a few peaks of slightly louder sound, separated by lines that have almost no instrumentation only to transform into pure loudness -- and then it's gone again.


"Forget the Flowers"

Another gem from "Being There" "Forget the Flowers" just has a mood about it that is hard to shake. Its rhythm putt-putts along while Wilco crafts a folk sound that dances with impeccable alt-country banjo picking, the background "oohs" and twangy guitars. It's a song of craftsmanship that showcases Tweedy's appreciation for folks songs by creating one of his own.

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