By T.J. Grant, Staff Writer
On May 27th, Wilco released their very first country album, Cruel Country, in the nearly 30 years they’ve been together as a band. But the leading single, “Falling Apart (Right Now),” makes it seem as though they’re experts in the genre.
Of course, the band came dangerously close to country with their debut A.M., which defined the alt-country sound. And they admit that there have been hints of country in everything they’ve done since. But Wilco has never felt comfortable defining themselves as country until now.
THE POLITICS HIDDEN IN “FALLING APART (RIGHT NOW)”
Behind a repeated syncopated guitar riff and passionate steel guitar, lies a frustrated and desperate message. “Falling Apart (Right Now)” offers classic country characteristics like witty lyricism but with a Wilco twist. Lines like, “Why don’t you get in line, behind the tears I’m crying,” appear to be about a soured relationship between two people; but much like the rest of Cruel Country, it’s about the faults and shortcomings of the United States.
Esquire interviewer Dan Sinker told lead singer and frontman Jeff Tweedy, “You picked a hell of a time to make a record about America, man.” This couldn’t be truer. As is the case for a lot of people, Tweedy’s mind couldn’t distract itself from the country’s failures during the early days of the pandemic. Thus, they became the subject matter of many of the songs.
Tweedy’s love of both country music and the country he lives in inspired him to “investigate their mirrored problematic natures,” he told Rolling Stone.
The lyric “Now don’t you lose your mind, while I’m looking for mine” pleads for strength from at least one person at a time. Later, “You’re gonna have to stay strong, a little longer this time” implies that this situation has happened before. And in America, where things change extremely slowly if at all, it most likely has.
OTHER LANDMARKS FOR WILCO
Along with being Wilco’s very first self-proclaimed country record, Cruel Country is also their first double LP since 1996’s Being There. It also marks their first time recording all together in their home studio, the Loft, in their hometown of Chicago since 2011’s The Whole Love.
THE RECORDING STYLE OF “FALLING APART (RIGHT NOW)”
For over a decade now, Wilco has “made pandemic records before the pandemic,” according to Tweedy. All six members would find their way into the studio one at a time and record their individual parts, rarely crossing paths with one another. In a press release, Tweedy expressed the joys of recording live again. He said, “It’s a style of recording that forces a band to surrender control and learn to trust each other, along with each other’s imperfections, musical and otherwise.”
This rawness and spontaneity can be heard clearly on the album’s lead single, but the band’s chops and diligent musicianship cannot be ignored. From Tweedy’s impeccable vocal delivery to Glenn Kotche’s grounded drumming, Wilco is tighter than ever, even after nearly three decades worth of writing, recording and touring.
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