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Burdened with the legacy of his former band, Uncle Tupelo, Wilco leader Jeff Tweedy spent most of his energy on his new band’s 1995 debut, “A.M.,” reassuring old fans that he still had it. It worked. Wilco nobly carried the alternative-country torch hoisted by Uncle Tupelo.

When he started cobbling together this two-disc collection, a rather audacious sophomore undertaking, Tweedy set about saying goodbye to rock ‘n’ roll as his sole obsession. Here he rifles through his old record collection with an end-of-the-line reverence and pastes together scraps of everything from roadhouse blues to raunch rock, Elton John to the Beach Boys.

The album’s electrifying first track, “Misunderstood,” comes wrapped in an existential gauze. “Back in your neighborhood,” croons Tweedy, “the cigarettes taste so good, but you’re so misunderstood. . . . There’s something there that you can’t find. . . . “

Twangy yet brooding, sometimes radio-friendly--"Outtasite (Outta Mind),” especially--yet riddled with a disturbing late-'90s ennui, “Being There” plumbs a declining America poised on the brink of the millennium. Tweedy captures all the pervasive waste and stubborn hope, and he uncovers his soul as a songwriter who can deliver historical-feeling street-corner blues that never forget power lines and corporate downsizing.

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Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

* TimesLine 808-8463

To hear excerpts from the albums reviewed, call TimesLine and press * and the artist’s corresponding four-digit code. Wilco *5717

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In 805 area code, call (818) 808-8463.


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