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"Before you know it as the years go by, you're just like other people you have seen, with all those peculiar human ailments. Just another vehicle for temper and vanity and rashness and all the rest. Who wants it? Who needs it? These things occupy the place where a man's soul should be." -- Henderson the Rain King

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Wilco Book

I'm currently reading The Wilco Book which was published by PictureBox Inc. last November. The book is a mixture of art work, images related to the band, comments and essays from Wilco members, a Henry Miller essay titled "The Angel Is My Watermark", and an essay by Rick Moody on five Wilco songs (namely "Dash 7", "Sunken Treasure", "She's A Jar", "Ashes of American Flags", and "Hell Is Chrome"). The book also includes a bonus CD which features 12 tracks recorded during the recording sessions for A Ghost Is Born.

My favorite part of the book so far is a section in which the band discusses the steps they go through when making a new record. In many ways, this book is to A Ghost Is Born what Sam Jones' documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart was to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Just as the movie gave us an unflinching view into the inner workings of the band during the recording of UHF, the book provides us with insight into what the band was trying to accomplish with their new album and the hurdles they ran into along the way. For instance, Jeff Tweedy mentions that one of his early goals for the new album was to avoid writing lyrics in the first person and to avoid writing about personal things. Later in the process he realizes that his attempt to make the lyrics impersonal was really 'just an attempt to hide' and that in reality writing in the third person can be even more personal at times because 'it shows the hand of someone trying to avoid himself'. Later he talks about leaving 'open spaces' in the songs that allow people to take the lyrics and apply them to their own situation or experiences. There's a lot more of these kinds of details in the book, but you get the idea. I think it's great that Wilco keeps providing it's fans with materials like this that supplement and enhance the experience of listening to the music. I hope more bands will follow their cue.