Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I am trying to break your heart: a film about Wilco

Group 1 Responses (400 word minimum). Focus on themes, or specific scene shots, or some other aspect of the film or its social, cultural, musical context. Due by the end of Tuesday.

Group 2 comments (200 word minimum): Supply a thoughtful comment that expands upon one (or several) of Group 1 responses.


  1. An album is like a painting; it takes a vision, many mediums, countless hours compulsively poured into it, and passion.
    I found the opening scene very similar to Dylan’s Don’t Look Back and The Band’s The Last Waltz in that the director chose to put the camera into a moving car and shot the cityscapes in motion. I feel that this gives the viewer the sense that we are about to embark on a journey along with the main characters. Instead of just watching a survey of the events, we as the viewers, are now immersed in their story and can now relate to their emotions in a palpable way.
    Wilco holds a very rudimentary concept of their creative talent: they have to destroy something in order to mold it into their own truly unique sound. They also apply the punk motto, “Do It Yourself” to almost every aspect of their album; which absolutely speaks volumes to their ambitious quest of producing their 4th album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot independent of commercial corporate influence. I enjoyed how they used any and everything available to make original sounds; like the Black Scorpions did in the documentary “I know I’m Not Alone”. Although unlike the Black Scorpions who found invention through necessity, Wilco consciously chose to utilize different instruments for sound. Their music was a blend of folk, rock, metal and even a little jazz in the cacophony of the intros and outros.
    A scene that really stood out to me was when Jeff Tweedy was on the phone with whom I assumed to be his wife and their song, “I Am Not Trying to Break Your Heart” played over the soundtrack. I took this as he is on a mission; he is driven like never before and completely consumed in this creative endeavor. He is not purposely trying to be absent from his family, or cause them any grief or heartache; he has simply dove headfirst into this album and, like any other talented artist, he cannot fathom doing anything else other than the project at hand.
    The title of the documentary, also “I Am Not Trying To Break Your Heart” could also be in reference to the injustices record corporations commit on talented musical artists. The phrase, “it’s just business” comes to mind. Although they did not set out to mislead or get Wilcos’ hopes up, when their label dropped them over a questionable bottom line, Tweedy’s heart did get broken. Rage Against the Machine held similar convictions about having an uncompromising creative freedom, although Wilco was in the luxurious position of being able to afford not changing their sounds. Both bands stood on moral ground to preserve their creative endeavors; although Rage held more political motives. This documentary displays the unfortunate realities that musical and artistic talent takes a back seat to a capitalist’s profit and bottom line. As portrayed by the song “Pure Imagination” as the closing scene, Wilco managed to bring a happy ending to this seemingly oblique series of events. Through their “Pure Imagination” and talent, their ambitiously forward and courageous record, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, managed to stick it to the man in the end.

  2. In response..
    I also think the opening scene of I am trying to break your heart was similar to Bob Dylans Don’t Look Back but mainly because of the cinema verite style it opened with. I really like Wilco and was initially excited to watch it. The film is interesting for a little while. I agree it was really neat to have an inside look at the song writing process and watching them use anything and everything to make music but other than that it was painfully boaring. I think the problem is that the guys in Wilco aren't that interesting and neither is their “fighting.” Everyone knows that drama makes great TV so I think it would have done a better job if it would have covered more of the actual conflict between the band. I did like the fact that we got to see the performance footage of Wilco in concert and in the studio. Even though I didn’t care for the film, I still found it to be a somewhat interesting examination of group dynamics and band relationships, as well as insight to the corporate music industry and artistic creativity and expression.

  3. To film a band during the recording of an album is a brilliant idea. Especially a project like Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. An album that goes in such a different musical direction from their prior country/rock albums. Under direction of Sam Jones this documentary, or should I say rockumentary mostly takes place at Wilco’s practice loft. A space that is filled with instruments and recording equipment. To visualize the effort put in to the making of an album is great. Being in a band myself, I know how it is to get the tracks right. Tweedy and the crew make it seem effortless; or at least what is shown by S. Jones. I didn’t really see how the solo shows by Tweedy were relevant to the Wilco documentary. The time Tweedy took to do the shows could have been better spent on the album. An album that seemed so right to Wilco did not seem so right to Repise Records. (The bands label at the time. After the band turned the master into the record company the band didn’t hear back right away. This was unsettling to the band. There was a problem. Reprise Records was undergoing a staff change. A changing of presidents. The old president loved Wilco, but the new president wasn’t so impressed. He sent the record back and said the band needed to make some changes. Wilco however, thought the record was perfect the way it was. A standoff began. At the same time Wilco was ready to “cut the fat” so to speak. It was time to let go Jay Bennett. Although Bennett said Tweedy just wanted the spotlight, Wilco just couldn’t work with Bennett anymore. So he was released. At this time Reprise told Wilco to take the record as a parting gift. Well that was fine with Wilco. Wilco played some shows to support the new album while at the same time the band was searching for a new label. And they found that new label at Nonesuch Records. Nonesuch Records is a subsidiary of Warner music group. But so is Reprise. Turns out Warner music payed Wilco twice for the same album. That’s comedy. Wilco’s album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot went on to be Wilco’s biggest selling record.

  4. in response to c.aiello's comments on the record company dropping Wilco's record deal and having them part way with their ablum in hand as though it was a valueless investment. I think the perserverance and determination of these artist to stand strong on what they knew was the right sound they were looking for and not to conform to what the record company views of their music should be is what i feel most music is missing today. I feel bands now days are here to make the money and want all the fame but what happened to making music because it is a form of art and it sounds like you hear it in your head versus how many times it will be played on the radio. a prime example of this is one of my former favorite bands OAR. They started with a rocking garage band sound that i feel was just the sound they were looking for and was right on point but you would rarely if ever hear this music on the radio, atleast not on any station i used to listen to. Then one day they were picked up by a new record company promised the spotlight and cash changed their sound and lost that special something they developed while playing in their basement. Piss off OAR, sell outs... Rock on Wilco!