Friday, 14 December 2007

covered inglory #10 - wilco 'comment'

a few months ago, sasha frere-jones caused a bloggish furore (no animals or real people were harmed) when he identified a parting of the ways between lascivious, bass-heavy black music and uptight, strangled, funk-free indie. he laid most of the blame on dr. dre and (good lord!) pavement's second drummer. to illustrate the parlous state of music in 2007 he used arcade fire as his favoured sorry-ass lame-o pale-faced whipping-boys. but wilco, whose records have dominated year-end lists and marked the shifting tastes of indie fans for almost fifteen years, could have fitted just as easily. this year's sky blue sky, though one of the best records of 2007 (yup), is entirely devoid of groove, opting instead for stark white album production, splintering guitar noise and cautious, self-conscious lyrics. their previous release, kicking television, was that most-feared expression of chin-stroking jam-band self-indulgence - the double live album.

flying in the face of this manichean musical moan is wilco's version 'comment (if all men are truly brothers)', the final track on kicking television. fans of six degrees of separation (music nerd edn.) will be glad to know that 'comment' was originally recorded by charles wright and the watts 103rd street rhythm band, more famous for 'express yourself', as sampled by dre for NWA (and, earlier this year, by statik selektah, with termanology, talib kweli and consequence).

'comment' is a rich, warm, social-protest soul ballad. its uplifting sentiments are just as mawkish as those of 'wish you were here', though (mercifully) they are far more direct and don't aspire to the status of bong-addled poetry. i'll be in trouble for posting it, as last time i played it in GMS HQ i got shouted at for putting on "plodding earnest crap". it does feature a sleigh-bell solo.

but in its context, coming after more than an hour of wilco's awkward, downbeat indie-prog workouts, it's a redemptive triumph, sending the crowd off with a deliberately overblown sense of solidarity and brotherly love (i think chaps make up the majority of wilco audiences). no matter how far bands like wilco drift from frere-jones' dream of miscegenation, listeners are still drawn in by the same sorts of communal sentiment, and are still listening to black and white music without (too much) prejudice. 'comment' joins the dots. it makes me smile.

wilco - 'comment (if all men are truly brothers' (from kicking television: live in chicago)

buy charles wright

previously on covered inglory

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