Tag Archives: Jay Bennett

Blast From The Past: Wilco

Tangents are wonderful things…

While reading the Morgan Taylor interview the other day, I noticed that he’d opened a lot of shows for Wilco. That made me pull out Being There and Summerteeth; both those records sound perfect when Spring is trying to shake off the doldrums and give you a warm day or two. and despite my town setting its all time record for rain during the month of April, birds and buds and ants are telling me that little liar groundhog’s ruse is almost over.

In other words, my review of Summerteeth from 1999 in…

When asked about his plans for Wilco after Being There had caught people off guard, Jeff Tweedy hinted that the band would most likely take another unexpected turn and create “a twisted pop record“. Let it never be said that Tweedy is not a man of his word.

Once again self-produced by the band (Tweedy, Jay Bennett, John Stirratt and Ken Coomer), Summerteeth thrives on the juxtaposition of introspective, sometimes dense, lyrical wordplay fleshed out in a rainbow of musical style. There are several songs that will immediately strike the listener as upbeat, sing-along melodies, yet underneath lurk images of loneliness, confusion and unfulfilled dreams.

Video: “Candyfloss

Candyfloss” jumps out of the speakers with a bouncy, 60s pop calliope beat, yet Tweedy’s confessional says otherwise: “I’m the boy who looks excited/I’m the boy who’se gonna fall apart…I’m the boy who eats his heart out…” . Likewise, the opener, “Can’t Stand It” is a groove rocker but boasts a chorus that states “our dreams will never be answered again“.

Via Chicago” is one of the few that matches sonic pulse with lyrical imagery. Slow and deliberate, the opening line is as disturbing as the distorted, feedback-laden guitar solo that cradles the fade-out: “Dreamed about killing you again last night / and it felt all right to me…”. Then – just as your heart and brain are splattered across the floor – “ELT (Every Little Thing)” rockets out of the speakers like the hit single it should be, a cousin to Bowie’sHeroes” filtered through The Byrds. It’s another song of lost opportunity or maybe Fate’s warning, but which? Hopeful or hopeless? Tweedy’s deft pen leaves that open to your imagination, and depending upon your mood, it will be either.

Video: “ELT (Every Little Thing)

The title track, like “Candyfloss” and “ELT“, will no doubt pump out of radios all summer long. No matter that the subject is denial about the rut that his life has become; the infectious refrain will have you singing along with the “ooh-ahh” background vocals (with lilting keyboards and chirping birds, no less) and have you daydreaming as well. “My Darling” and the stark “We’re Just Friends” echo Big Star circa Sister Lovers with a little Brian Wilson harmony thrown in, while “You Wake Up Feeling Old” is ironically finger-snapping pop.

The band must have gathered up every instrument in the studio and then some – bells, bird chirps, penny whistles, shakers, flutes, horns and tympani are sparingly but creatively used throughout the record. And as he promised, Tweedy has stripped down the band and reconstructed its direction, a move that will probably alienate some diehard Uncle Tupelo purists (assuming they aren’t already pissed off) but should thrill anyone with an open mind and a respect for the art of songwriting. Summerteeth is funky, soulful, rocking, heartbreaking, pensive and explosive – in short, a masterpiece.

Wilcoworld

Listen to clips here

Roger that!

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R.I.P. Jay Bennett

Gone in a puff of smoke
Gone in a puff of smoke

Goddamn.

It’s difficult enough to lose people when they are elderly; to have someone suddenly pass away at 45 is shocking and unfair. But on May 24th, we lost another one. It goes without saying that heartfelt sympathies go out to family and close friends, but Jay Bennett also had a profound impact on a lot of people in the extended music community as well. Even a cursory observer could see that he pushed buttons in Jeff Tweedy that few others could reach, and his tenure in Wilco was my favorite. He also left an indelible mark on countless other bands who have benefited from his production, his musicianship, his guidance and his friendship.

Like everything else in his life, all was not rosy. He was thrilled about getting closure on his newest album yet three weeks ago he filed a lawsuit against Tweedy seeking compensation for back royalties from Wilco and fees for his appearance in the film I Am Trying To Break Your Heart. This was less than two weeks after penning a lengthy blog on MySpace where he disclosed that health issues had kept him from pursuing life at full speed, but he had recently come to terms with what lied ahead and actually embraced the challenge. He sounded positive, peaceful, and grateful, a man on a mission to not only climb that mountain but to plant the flag and look for the next one. And although there would certainly be obstacles, the journey would move forward.

“All in all, I’m “in a really good place” right now; I’m just waiting until I can make it all happen. Thanks so much to all of you for downloading “Whatever happened I Apologize,” I really hope that you enjoyed it. I greatly appreciated all of the feedback you all gave me—keep it coming on the new stuff, if you feel like it. Again, apologies for my absence, I honestly do care about staying true to my promise to maintain open and interactive relationships with all of you “out there,” wherever you may be…Peace, Love, and Understanding, Jay Walter Bennett”

I guess that journey now continues elsewhere, Jay. Thanks for everything you generously shared.

Read the entire “Hip Replacement” blog here.

To download Whatever Happened I Apologize” free, click here.

Jay Bennett’s solo discography

Jay’s MySpace page and Wikipedia entry

Jim DeRogatis’ blog at the Chicago Sun-Times; comments from fans and Wilco.

 

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NEW ALBUM! Tommy Keene

 

Same as it ever was, same as it ever was...

Same as it ever was, same as it ever was...

Although far from a household name, Tommy Keene has been around for a long time and has a strong following in power-pop circles. He’s never had a hit record per se, but those who are knowledgeable about the indie and melodic rock scene are very familiar with the singer-singwriter’s catalogue; he’s been a critical favorite for almost thirty years. Not exceedingly prolific, there have been a couple of breaks in his career, but just as interestingly, a couple of kick-starts. (I really thought the Alias retrospective The Real Underground would have launched him into the stratosphere…maybe with a Warner Brothers or Columbia budget it might have).

He’s been on the cusp of stardom for so long he probably has an office there. Geffen Records tried to promote him as a pop hero in the post-New Wave era. He’s had credible players like Peter Buck, Jay Bennett and Robin Wilson helping out on albums where his strong originals are often accompanied by great cover songs like Lou Reed’s “Kill Your Sons” or “Tattoo” from The Who Sell Out. He’s partnered with Bob Pollard and hit the road as a lead guitarist (where he rocks considerably harder than on his own material) with Paul Westerberg and Velvet Crush. But despite often great critical acclaim, he’s managed to stay on the cult side of the popularity fence while far less talented artists landed on the front pages.

Tommy Keene live performing “Run Now

There are a lot of artists who haven’t hit a high note in their catalogue to touch “Places That Are Gone“, “Run Now” or “Back To Zero“, and while I don’t think he’s recaptured that majesty in a while himself, there’s a great body of work out there well worth exploring. I think at this stage of the game he’s just in it to please himself, which allows him to wallow in the areas he enjoys without concern for the headlines. It gives him a chance to dabble in artistic relationships he enjoys, do his own thing or pinch-hit with others, and every four years or so drop another project out there for the fans (while that group may not be massive, they are loyal). Sounds like a nice life to me.

You can read my review of In The Late Bright in Blurt Magazine.

Tour info, clips and tons more at Tommy Keene’s website.

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