Saturday, March 2, 2019

SYNESTHESIA'S SESSION NOTES MARCH 2019: WORDS FOR PETER

PETER TORK
FEBRUARY 13, 1942-FEBRUARY 21, 2019

The Monkees were my first favorite band.

They were the first band I ever loved. The first band I ever became obsessed with. The first band who meant the entire universe to me. And because of that profound, intense, everlasting love, it absolutely pained me to the point of tears to read the news on February 21st, that Peter Tork, singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and actor from the Emmy Award wining musical comedy television series "The Monkees" had passed away due to complications from adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare form of cancer.

He was 77 years old.

My introduction to The Monkees arrived as if from a bolt of lightning when I was perhaps 6 years old. I remember having a visit at my Grandparents' home, and for some reason, I ended up within their dining room, seated in a plastic covered arm chair (it was the '70's folks), doing nothing at all. Maybe I was bored. Maybe I was stewing about something or another in the very way that happens for small children. But for whatever the reason, I was busy doing absolutely, positively nothing...until, my cousin Adam (my forever "big brother") entered the room and asked me a fateful, date with destiny question:

"Hey Scott!! You wanna watch 'The Monkees'?"

Not knowing exactly what he was talking about, I answered his question with a most logical question:

"Why do I want to see a bunch of chimps?"

 Undeterred, Adam proclaimed, "No! Not those monkeys! These Monkees! Come on!"

And so I went, because I would have followed Adam anywhere because I loved him so (and I still do) and also, as he would prove to me over and again throughout our lives, he was absolutely right as what I was about to see would change the course of my life.

Turning on Chicago's WFLD Channel 32, the show began and with those now iconic opening credits and its accompanying theme song, I was instantly hooked and ultimately transformed. The cavalcade of rapid fire images fusing slapstick comedy and rock and roll as presented through these four figures was akin to an adrenaline shot to the heart as I was firmly filled to the point of elation by the sights and sounds I was experiencing. It was unquestionably a line in the sand moment in my life--a time before and a time after I learned of The Monkees and how immediately I became attached to all four of them.

As an adult, I am continuously fathomed by the ingenuity of the show's producers and creators for their tenacity with the casting of these two musicians and two actors who would formulate, what Monkees singer, songwriter, drummer Mickey Dolenz would always describe as a television show about a band  and decidedly not a band that had a television show.

These were four individuals whose chemistry was electric, the proverbial lightning in a bottle as it is indeed that chemistry that would not only inform their creation into becoming a real band (like Pinocchio becoming a real boy as Dolenz also referenced over the years), but a collective that would ultimately endear themselves to generations upon generations of viewers and listeners, including inspiring new musicians and songwriters for over 50 years.  No small feat whatsoever for something that was "prefabricated."

Which takes me back to my childhood and that first viewing, as these people were so perfectly cast that their personas were brilliantly evokes and therefore cemented instantly. The late Davy Jones as the resident British heartthrob. The aforementioned Mickey Dolenz as the wild yet gentle anarchist. The wool hat wearing Michael Nesmith as the wry skeptic.

And then, there was Peter Tork...the innocent, the ingenue, the clown, the tender fool, the child in us all.

Just go to You Tube and watch those opening credits again and really pay attention to the portion during which all four Monkees are incorrectly identified by the wrong name on screen and accompanied with the perfect reaction shots to the mistakes and corrections. Everyone is first misidentified as Peter to which Peter Tork reacts with confusion, disappointment, then a wailing wall of tears and then, at last, finally, blessed euphoria.

I was a 6 year old child and connected to that completely for it was so easily understood and in doing so, I was won over entirely, as I would imagine for so many viewers over the years because with Peter Tork, we felt compassion, we felt protective, we felt love because his persona was the purest of them all. He was The Monkees' Ringo Starr, their Harpo Marx and through his projected innocence, we tapped into our own and loved him that much more--even when he destructed his own image within The Monkees' brilliant, hallucinogenic, far ahead of its time musical satire motion picture Director Bob Rafelson's "Head" (1968).

In addition to his skills as a comedic actor, who famously accompanied none other than his then roommate Stephen Stills to the audition for the television show, Peter Tork was a seriously accomplished musician before he was cast and did indeed place his indelible stamp upon The Monkees' musical legacy, despite having the least lead vocals. Yes, he gave it all he had on the terrific haunted house mash that is "Your Auntie Grizelda" and it is also his rich voice that adds that superb bit of soul to "Words" and so beautifully, the pensive existentialism of the mournful "Shades Of Grey" and the stunning, heartfelt deep cut "Come On In."

As a multi-instrumentalist, it is his piano that opens "Daydream Believer." It is his wistful, pastoral banjo picking that glides through "You Told Me." And of course, there are his songwriting skills that cannot go unheralded as he co-wrote or wrote Monkees selections including the glorious "For Pete's Sake" (which was utilized as the end credits theme song during season 2 of the program), the speed rap jazz freakout "Goin' Down," the psychedelic journeys that are indeed "Can You Dig It?" and "Long Title: Do I Have To This All Over Again?," the goofy spoken word tricks and treats of "Zilch" and "Peter Percival Patterson's Pet Pig Porky" and in his later years as The Monkees reunited for more albums and tours, the beautiful "I Believe In You," "Little Girl," "Wasn't Born To Follow" and "A Better World."

Of course, we all know that The Monkees was not a "real" band in any traditional sense. But for that matter, what is a "real" band anyway? What I do know is that The Monkees have endured tremendously and that they endeared themselves to all of us through their unabashed joy, enthusiasm, humor and an enormity of heart. Peter Tork in particular embodied this overwhelming generosity of spirit through such an unassuming grace and gentleness that belied and enhanced his formidable skills, always quietly reminding us of his abilities even as we held him so closely to our own hearts.

It always warmed me to see him, as he exuded warmth during his Monkees television heydey as well as many years later during footage of reunion tours and television appearances and rare interviews as he consistently showcased a personality that felt to be devoid of ego and perhaps a bit bemused at the continuing adoration and attention. Essentially, and deceptively simple to achieve, Peter Tork made me feel happy and in turn, all I could ever hope for was that he felt just as happy in his life. There was no way that I could have ever wanted for anything more for him after all of the uplift his existence in the world gave to me and I have this feeling that as you think of him now, you may be feeling something similar.

Upon the news of his passing, reading the words of tribute and sadness from the now two surviving members of The Monkees, Mickey Dolenz and Michael Nesmith, it really hit me at this point of how closely bonded these men actually were and completely despite the initial arrangement of their union.

"There are no words right now...heartbroken over the loss of my Monkee brother, Peter Tork, " wrote Dolenz. As for Nesmith, he composed a tribute that spoke volumes to me as it felt to address  directly why we embraced The Monkees and Peter Tork so emphatically.

"Peter Tork died this AM. I am told he slipped away peacefully.

Yet, as I write this, my tears are awash, and my heart is  broken.  Even though I am clinging to the idea that we all continue, the pain that attends these passings has no cure. It's going to be a rough day.

I share with all Monkees fans this change, this "loss," even so.

PT will be a part of me forever. I have said this before--and now it seems even more apt--the reason we called it a band is because it was where we all went to play."

To play.  Yes indeed.  To play.

The joy of Peter Tork, from what he released and to what I experienced and felt every single time I saw and heard him was the very spirit of play that fully envelops childhood and by turn, the very spirit that is stifled upon adulthood. Peter Tork tapped into that inexplicable spirit throughout his career, igniting my own as a child, and rekindling it every single time I would re-watch an episode or listen to the music all over again.

In doing so, Peter Tork was my playmate and my friend for life. And I would gather that he was yours as well.

Through his death, it is, of course, yet another reminder that all things must pass. But I would also think that at this time, it is also a reminder to keep finding the things in life that allow us to experience that unfiltered glee that informs us to keep playing, to keep finding that space of innocence which encourages us to experience silliness and ridiculousness as well as imagination, creativity and wonder.

I don't know about you but Peter Tork exemplified that particular spirit to me, and I honestly wish for it to remain a part of me forever, especially as I keep remembering the very first time I ever saw him when I was a small child.

Thank you, Peter. For you deeply enriched my life.

   REST IN POWER

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

SAVAGE RADIO PLAYLISTS FEBRUARY 2019: WVMO 98.7 FM-THE VOICE OF MONONA

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #159
"SAVAGE RADIO STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS 2019"
FEBRUARY 6, 2019

1. "Go Away" performed by Living Colour
2. "Swing To The Right" performed by Utopia
3. "The Wall Street Shuffle" performed by 10cc
4. "Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty Four)" performed by Eurythmics
5. "The Other Side Of The Mountain" performed by Planet P. Project
6. "Talkin' Loud & Sayin' Nothing" performed by JAMES BROWN
7. "Raise Vibration" performed by Lenny Kravitz
8. "The Royal Scam" performed by Steely Dan
9. "It's Gonna Get Better" performed by Genesis
SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #160
"MESSAGES OF LOVE"
FEBRUARY 20, 2019
1. "Message Of Love" performed by Pretenders
2. "Darlin'" performed by Dwight Twilley
3. "Love In Store" performed by Fleetwood Mac
4. "The Mayor Of Simpleton" performed by XTC
5. "Falling" performed by Susannah Hoffs
6. "All The World Loves Lovers" performed by Prefab Sprout
7. "Meet Me In The Morning" performed by Everything But The Girl
8. "Everybody Here Wants You" performed by Jeff Buckley
9. "Come Over" performed by The Internet
10."Dreaming Of You" performed by Sloan
11."A Man And A Woman" performed by U2
12."Calling Dr. Love" performed by KISS
13."You Look So Fine" performed by Garbage

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #161
"BLACK HISTORY MONTH CELEBRATION 2019"
FEBRUARY 27, 2019

1. "3121" performed by Prince
2. "The Magic Clap" performed by The Coup
3. "If You Let Me" performed by Eddie Kendricks
4. "Groovallegiance" performed by Funkadelic
5. "Midnight" performed by Jimi Hendrix
6. "A Cold November Street" performed by Fantastic Negrito
7. "Feed The Babies" performed by Gary Clark Jr.
8. "P.D.A. (We Just Don't Care)" performed by John Legend
9. "Bring It On Home" performed by Sam Cooke
10."Even If It Is So" performed by Q-Tip

NOW PLAYING IN THE SAVAGE JUKEBOX FEBRUARY 2019

"LIKE THE DESERTS MISS THE RAIN"
EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL
Released October 21, 2002
"OUT IN THE WOODS"
TRACEY THORN
Released March 5, 2007
"RARE BIRDS"
JONATHAN WILSON
Released March 2, 2018
"HENDRA"
BEN WATT
Released April 14, 2014
"SANTANA III"
SANTANA

Released September 1971
"LOVE AND ITS OPPOSITE"
TRACEY THORN
Released May 17, 2010
"SHE REMEMBERS EVERYTHING"
ROSEANNE CASH
Released November 2, 2018
"AMPLIFIED HEART"
EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL
Released June 13, 1994
"PRISONER: THE B-SIDES"
RYAN ADAMS
Released April 28, 2017
"III/IV"
RYAN ADAMS AND THE CARDINALS
Released December 14, 2010

Saturday, February 9, 2019

SYNESTHESIA'S FAVORITE MUSIC OF 2018: SIDE FOUR

Now, for the grand finale!!!! Side Four of this 2018 wrap-up series in which I have detailed my favorite releases of this past year. And now, I arrive at the very top, the albums that I loved the absolute most. My top three favorites...
"BON VOYAGE"
MELODY'S ECHO CHAMBER
Released June 15, 2018
-"Bon Voyage," the second full length release by Melody's Echo Chamber, the musical brainchild of singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Melody Prochet, arrived in the middle of the year and immediately, the album's transportive qualities dropped me into one rabbit hole only to have me emerge inside of another rabbit hole and then another still via 7 shapeshifting tracks that pack a  universe into a compact 33 minutes.

Now the full gestation of "Bon Voyage" was lengthy to say the least as it has arrived six years after the 2012 self-titled debut album and even then, this new album had been delayed for one year as Prochet endured what has been written about as a "serious accident" where she suffered a brain aneurysm and broken vertebrae. And yet, with all of the extended time and personal turmoil, what Prochet has ultimately delivered is a undeniably playful yet defiantly fearless work that has taken the kaleidoscopic, psychedelic audio playground aesthetic and revitalized it tremendously.

As the opening nearly seven minute suite of "Cross My Heart" effortlessly blends late 1960's/ early 1970's prog rock soundscapes with hip-hop beats and French lyrics, "Breathe In, Breathe Out" takes its sugary dream world pop and turns its stunning melodies inside out suggesting some groovy dance club possibly located deep within a magical netherworld placed inside of a tree (trust me with that description--it makes sense once you hear the song).

"Desert Horse," complete with bizarre, brief screams and electronically altered vocals, feels precisely like a ride upon the titular animal as it heads towards the hazy ashram in the center of your mind where you are then greeted by the gentle, acoustic Swedish campfire song "Var Har du Vart?"

The seven minute plus centerpiece, and featuring superlative assistance from members of the band Dungen, arrives in the supremely enveloping whirlwind that is "Quand Les Larmes D'Un Ange Font Danser La Neige," a dynamic 21st century psychedelic powerhouse of Keith Moon styled drum heroics, cascades of guitars and mellotrons with Prochet's airy vocals swirling through everything like the wind through the trees.  To serve as what felt to be a coda to my ears is the more meditative yet no less dazzling "Visions Of Someone Special, On A Wall Of Reflections," again featuring vocals in French augmented by all manner of warm synthetics and shuffling drums. "Bon Voyage" glides and grooves to its spectacular conclusion with "Shirim," a trip-funk workout featuring Prochet on every single instrument and vocal in full one-woman band glory.

Melody's Echo Chamber's "Bon Voyage" is a work that truly felt to serve absolutely no one else other than Melody Prochet's muse and artistic vision as it fully ignored every conceivable genre and trend surrounding her as she boldly crafted her own music universe with her own rules, boundaries and language, making it an album of a distinctly rarefied quality and character. Regarding Melody Prochet's health, I have no idea if she has fully healed or otherwise but I seriously hope that she has. For herself and those who love her, of course. Yet, as a fan, I am frothing at the mouth for a chance to discover where she can go from here.

But for now, we have "Bon Voyage," a musical journey I have been enraptured to undertake over and over again.
"HEAVEN AND EARTH"
KAMASI WASHINGTON
Released June 22, 2018
-If "The Epic" (released May 5, 2015), was a perfectly titled triple album of astounding arrival and the follow-up EP "Harmony Of Difference" (released September 27, 2017) served as a blissfully, compelling interlude, then composer/saxophonist/bandleader Kamasi Washington's double album (complete with a hidden third disc tucked deeply inside of the CD jacket) "Heaven & Earth" is his most fulfilling, complete work to date as it is a celebratory ode to the human condition as well as proclaiming itself as a grand statement boldly bridging the worlds between past and present Black Excellence and Afro-Futurism beautifully together.

Again with the ghosts of John Coltrane, Charlies Mingus and Sun Ra as spectral guides, Washington and his cavalcade of musicians and vocalists through an existential journey through humanity and the the Black experience specifically through two album halves devoted to Earthly struggles and tribulations (Disc One: "Earth") and inner and even cosmic explorations (Disc Two: "Heaven") with a broadly sweeping musical canvas that has found Washington's compositions at their tightest yet commanding in their luxurious sprawl, demanding yet completely accessible, esoteric yet streetwise and the cumulative effect is enthralling from beginning to end.

It truly confounded me as I listen to this album of how all of these pieces, as elongated as they remain (songs typically run somewhere in the 8-9 minute range with some stretching even further or shorter), can all sound so refined when compared to Washington's past releases, as terrific as they are. For all of the ideas, the solos, the volume, the scope, the grandeur, Kamasi Washington has conceived of "Heaven And Earth" with a greater, sharper conceptual focus where not one selection ever overstays its welcome, feels to meander, loses the trajectory or slows the pace.

With "Heaven And Earth," what we have been given is an album that showcases an artist building a growing musical universe one dynamic song at a time and through selections, that are indeed mostly instrumental, where the tone and definition of resistance, conflict, uplift and ascension are explicitly paramount to the listening experience as a whole.

A superlative achievement.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
"RARE BIRDS"
JONATHAN WILSON
Released March 2, 2018
-To tell you the truth, making a final decision upon what would sit at the very top of my personal list was a most difficult one as I questioned whether Kamasi Washington's would earn my top prize or not, or should I declare a tie or not but in the end, there can be only one and for me, it is and remains Jonathan Wilson's majestic third solo release.

For those unfamiliar with Jonathan Wilson, just as I was until several years ago, he is a singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer based in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles. Most recently, he was a member of Roger Waters' touring band and had also performed upon Waters' most recent solo album, "Is This The Life We Really Want?" (released June 2, 2017). Yet, Wilson is possibly most known for his work collaborating with Father John Misty, as he co-produced Misty's "I Love You, Honeybear" (released February 9, 2015) and "Pure Comedy" (released April 7, 2017).

To my ears, the connection and collaborations between Wilson and Father John Misty are notable because in their own way, the two men suggest a certain Lennon-McCartney dynamic. Where Father John Misty often evokes the 1970's Plastic Ono Band, primal scream, brutally confessional Lennon, Jonathan Wilson feels to channel the concept album, the studio as instrument, melodic wonderland that has been McCartney's aesthetic. With "Rare Birds," Wilson's artistic vision has never felt to be more complete, all encompassing, audaciously ambitious, unapologetically expansive and astounding in its its resplendent sweep.

From the flowing opening track "Trafalgar Square" to the meditative closing number "Mulholland Queen" and everything in between during the album's nearly 79 minute running time, Jonathan Wilson concocts a deliriously enveloping and completely unpredictable musical universe where his influences are worn as openly as the heart upon his sleeve yet everything has been re-contextualized into a lavishly composed, arranged, produced and performed experience that is wholly original and unabashedly utopian.

Yes, you will hear soundscapes that do indeed evoke the likes of Pink Floyd by way of Crosby, Stills & Nash or better yet Gram Parsons, as Wilson does indeed seem to present himself as some sort of cosmic cowboy, flowing through an inexplicable and inter-dimensional musical time and space continuum commenting on matters of the heart and soul through a musical amalgamation of late '60's psychedelia, country and western, art/prog rock, '70's AM pop, '80's new wave/electronica, campfire folk, all made complete with lush orchestrations and fused through the supreme warmth of Wilson's songwriting, vocals and classic album-as-art era production.

And then there are the actual jigsaw puzzle arrangements of these songs, which are deeply immersive, challenging, elongated, joyously off-balance and undeniably perfect in their execution, during which a song's trajectory can switch on the proverbial dime, beginning here, magically ending there as if you had planned a trip to New York only to end up in Tunisia. If you ever wished for an album to feel like a journey upon a magic carpet, then "Rare Birds" is indeed the one to give you that extraordinary ride.

"I'm not leaving these walls/Without the prettiest song I can find," Wilson sings during the mid-album mood piece "49 Hair Flips." And indeed, Jonathan Wilson's "Rare Birds" represents the full results of this idiosyncratic artist's search, where his studies of all things pop music has unearthed a work of fearless invention, elegant realization and even gloriously ethereal spiritual deliverance.

In fact, I think Wilson himself has described his intent best within his own song "There's A Light," a  fully inclusive swirl of euphoria, when he sings the following:

"There is a reason that we play among the stars
 A reason that we are just who we are
A reason that we thrive
Belief to keep alive
A reason that we sing
Our song and everything...

...You are the sky
You are the sun
You are America and you are everyone
You are the miracle of love
With all your children at your feet
You are the ocean from above
So dear, so deep"

Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

Dear readers and listeners, trust me as I have the feeling that some of you may not have even heard of this album. Believe me, do seek out Jonathan Wilson's "Rare Birds" for it is precisely the kind of album one could describe as a masterpiece.

And this is why it is my number one favorite album of 2018.  

SYNESTHESIA'S SESSION NOTES FEBRUARY 2019

FROM THE DJ'S STUDIO DESK:
Ah yes...love...the month during which we take that day to celebrate love.

Now of course, we can be cynical, making remarks about Hallmark holidays and everything. But for now, I just wish to get past the commerce and just think about the sentiment, the emotions we harbor towards our partners, our families, friends and all treasured beings that we each hold dearest to our hearts.

Think of those songs and albums that do indeed conjure up some of those same feelings and memories. In fact, take just five minutes to sit and ponder over those very songs and albums...then, find them and listen...

Listen...

Whatever has arrived in the listening, then let's apply it. I happen to love the following lyrics from Pete Townshend's song "Stop Hurting People":

"Love conquers poses.
Love smashes stances.
Love crushes angles..."

Yes...indeed, I LOVE those words and the thoughts they invoke inside of me.

When it all comes down to the pure essence of things, I do believe The Beatles were correct. ALL we need is love and just imagine what we could do if we simply LOVED....

Really...use those five minutes to think about those treasured songs and when you find them...PLAY LOUD!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

SAVAGE RADIO PLAYLISTS JANUARY 2019: WVMO 98.7 FM-THE VOICE OF MONONA

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #155
"HAPPY NEW YEAR 2019: SIDE ONE, TRACK ONE"
JANUARY 2, 2019

1. "WOW" performed by Prince & 3RDEYEGIRL
2. "Rubberband Girl" performed by Kate Bush
3. "Debaser" performed by Pixies
4. "Inca Roads" performed by Frank Zappa & The Mothers Of Invention
5. "You Know It's You" performed by Kirsty MacColl
6. "Knights Of Malta" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
7. "Play The Game" performed by Queen
8. "Normal American Kids" performed by Wilco
9. "Since Grade 2" performed by The Ambers
10."She's Not The Enemy" performed by Jason Falkner

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #156
"REMEMBERING DAVID BOWIE 2019"
JANUARY 9, 2019

1. "Beauty And The Beast" performed by David Bowie
2. "Star Treatment" performed by Arctic Monkeys
3. "Starman" performed by Garbage
4. "Gardenia" performed by Iggy Pop
5. "Blackstar" performed by David Bowie
6. "Ripe (With Decay)" performed by Nine Inch Nails
7. "I Don't Like The Drugs (But The Drugs Like Me)" performed by Marilyn Manson
8. "Chelsea Lovers" performed by Dave Stewart
9. "Under The God" performed by Tin Machine

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #157
JANUARY 16, 2019

1. "Love Is Real" performed by Astral Drive
2. "Honeymoon Express" performed by Wendy & Lisa
3. "Falling Down" performed by Tears For Fears
4. "Walking Wounded" performed by Everything But The Girl
5. "Woodstock" performed by Matthews' Southern Comfort
6. "Stranger" performed by Electric Light Orchestra
7. "Electro Lux Imbriglio/Sacrifice" performed by The Steve Miller Band
8. "I'll Wait" performed by Van Halen
9. "Tree Of Knowledge" performed by The Pursuit Of Happiness
10."Hi Hello" performed by Johnny Marr

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #158
JANUARY 23, 2019

1. "She Works Out Too Much" performed by MGMT
2. "Cross My Heart" performed by Melody's Echo Chamber
3. "Blue Bell Knoll" performed by Cocteau Twins
4. "Cruel" performed by Thomas Dolby
5. "New Kindness" performed by Donny McCaslin
6. "Ice Age" performed by How To Destroy Angels
7. "Keep On Lying" performed by Tame Impala
8. "Moments.../In A Friction" performed by The Juliana Theory

NOW PLAYING IN THE SAVAGE JUKEBOX JANUARY 2019

"RAIN AND SUN"
THE AMBERS
Released 2008
"AMBER SUCHY"
AMBER SUCHY
Released 2013
"DONUTS"
J DILLA

Released February 7, 2006
"OVERLOAD"
GEORGIA ANNE MULDROW
Released October 26, 2018
"DAYDREAM NATION"
SONIC YOUTH
Released October 18, 1988


"PLECTRUMELECTRUM"
PRINCE & 3RDEYEGIRL
Released September 30, 2014
"THE BLACK ALBUM"
JAY-Z
Released November 14, 2003
"PARIS 1969"
THELONIOUS MONK
Released November 25, 2013
"PSYENCE FICTION"
UNKLE
Released August 24, 1998
"FEVER DREAM"
BEN WATT
Released April 8, 2016
"WARM"
JEFF TWEEDY
Released November 30, 2018
"LET'S GO (SO WE CAN GET BACK)
A MEMOIR OF RECORDING AND DISCORDING WITH WILCO, ETC."
JEFF TWEEDY
304 pages
Published by Dutton
November 13, 2018

I have to say that as of this period of my life, I have not been as engaged with the band Wilco as I had been in the past, perhaps circa 2001 and the few years where the band produced their most experimental material and the gradual phase into more direct recordings and songwriting. Not for any reason, especially as the band has remained as idiosyncratic as ever. 

But, to that end I will contend that I did feel a hair put off by their two most recent albums "Star Wars" (released July 16, 2015) and "Schmilco" (released September 9, 2016), as they each outwardly emanated a certain faux hipster irony or even worse, the dreaded complex of overly self-conscious quirkiness that just kept me at arms length and ultimately betrayed the honestly of the music each album contained.  That being said, I never gave up on the band but even so, there was a bit of luster in my mind that had begun to feel a little scuffed up and my interest in them had started to wane a hair. 

I was initially worried that I would lose the narrative thread of Wilco or more truthfully, the band's leader, songwriter, lead vocalist, guitarist and mastermind Jeff Tweedy as I began reading his memoir "Let's Go (So We Can Get Back)," as it was self-deprecating to an almost irritating fault. It felt as if Tweedy's bemused and detached air of "I-can't-believe-that-I'm-writing-a-memoir" was armed with a dismissiveness that came off as brittle to the point that the book was almost beginning to feel like a snot nosed punk styled dare and to that, I can easily walk away.

But then, Jeff Tweedy began to open up and once doing so, that detachment arrived as vulnerability, insecurity and an emotional rawness that eventually drew me in closer, ultimately making the book one I never wished to put down, blazing through it in record time for myself, and cherishing the large amount of grace notes doled throughout.

"Let's Go (So We Can Get Back)" is not a detailed account of the history of Wilco album by album, although we do receive some behind the scenes details. What Jeff Tweedy has accomplished so richly is to reveal his life from his working class Belleville, IL beginnings and roots through his discovery of his life's purpose as a musician and artist, both with his bands Uncle Tupelo and the aforementioned Wilco, complete with life's tremendous peaks and crippling valleys along the way, making for a reading experience that is profoundly intimate and fully engaging.

Tweedy never comes off as the exalted rock star bestowing tales from on high. His persona translates beautifully through his direct prose, making the book feel as if he is just sitting in the room with you having a conversation about life and all of its success and failures and while we are the ones reading and he is the one writing, the highest compliments I am able to give to his book is that it feels like a conversation. Being so plainly open and revealing about his fears, insecurities, and his failures fully stripped away any rock star mythology. Being so direct about his relationships with his family, the love he holds for his wife Susie and their sons, Spencer and Sammy, as well as the stories of his drug addictions and on-going recovery, made me appreciate the bravery of his sharing greatly.

Filled with his trademark droll humor firmly etched alongside his philosophical realizations about the purpose of art and music within his life and songwriting and recording process, and to that end, the existential revelations he has discovered and has now shared concerning living life and reaching the age of 51 and being here to bury both of his parents and see his wife through cancer treatment while simultaneously creating music beloved by fans worldwide, "Let's Go (So We Can Get Back)," much like he title of his new solo album, is a supremely WARM affair that feels like the finest Wilco songs in a completely new form.