PLEASE, GOD, NO
So the new Wilco album is out, and it kinda sucks. It sounds as if the band, complete with guitars, dusty memorabilia and memories, have decamped to an old person's home to record their dying days. It sounds like stagnation. It sounds like lack of effort. It sounds like late-era Steely Dan.
In their dotage, Wilco have become rather comfortable, and as such, their music lacks a certain cutting edge that it might still possess were its members embroiled in scandal, heartbreak, drug addiction and financial hunger, for it is from those difficult corners of life that great art often swells.
It's not just music, either; the second Stephen King signed himself to a gargantuan book deal worth millions upon millions, he stopped writing coherent, legitimately scary fiction and began phoning it in. Seriously, did anyone read "The Tommyknockers" or see that TV mini-series? What the fuck was that all about?
But back to music again, as there's where the bulk of this rant originates. I merely wish that musicians and artists would stop being so fucking selfish and would pick up the needle or the bottle again in order to give us, the paying public, some more of that good, old-fashioned, visceral, knock-your-dick-in-the-dirt music again! Or at least default on a couple of mortgage payments having blown $80,000 playing baccarat with Charles Barkley just to show that you still need the money and the fame to get by.
While I'm pleased that you fought an addiction to painkillers and won, Mr. Tweedy, the tough truth is that your music fucking sucks without that stuff, and I fear it shall taint your legacy permanently. If Rolling Stone gets a whiff of your current obssession with releasing hackneyed Americana records, you're well and truly fucked.
Songs like "Shot in the Arm" and LPs like "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" were born in some gloomy, gloomy neighbourhoods of the human psyche, and now you're peddling rock lite that no amount of tongue-in-cheek branding can hide! Seriously! "Sky Blue Sky" was fucking awful! Music to mow the lawn to! Music to play while chauffering the elderly from doctor's appointment to doctor's appointment! Music to feed to patients in a methadone clinic while they lie in an apathetic stupor. Nothing intriguing or challenging about it, and that's the death knell for music, books, or really any creative enterprise.
To his eternal credit, Kurt Cobain gave us album after album of grimy, pessimistic music, and then followed through on his torment by putting a bullet in his head. That shows some guts! Meanwhile, Tweedy, you went to rehab and became a rather withered husk of that angry former self who is content to release drive-time dreck like "Impossible, Germany". Don't get me wrong; your human struggle almost cost you a marriage and several close relationships, but it also made your music kinda suck.
It's a difficult relationship between life and art, and normally, the two are forever inverse. When you're angry, you tend to write better.
Ask Chip Wesley, whose seething Cubs rants read better than anything on TMS.
Ask Billy Corgan, who got out all that teen angst on the first couple of albums while the rent checks were still due, and as soon as his debts were paid, we were forced to endure weighty, retarded concept albums about star-crossed lovers on imaginary planets, all of it backed by awful-sounding industrial rock that not even the most atonal, drooling moron could appreciate.
Ask Brian Wilson. In the first era of the Beach Boys, you could begin to hear the thin veneer barely holding that tubby composer together. When it finally did all go wrong, the band fucked off to Europe and recorded "Holland", easily my favourite Beach Boys record for its off-kilter mood and still-beautiful instrumentation.
Or maybe ask Axl Rose. Shit, if he'd have shown some balls in releasing "Chinese Democracy" during those weird, wild days of punching Tommy Hilfiger and slowly going insane, it might have been half-decent. As such, he waited until life calmed down again and he was able to "focus" on finishing those songs, with the ensuing album sounding like warm garbage being filtered through Fran Drescher's lower intestine.
Frusciante: demented, addled genius on drugs. Shitty, noodly guitarist off drugs.
Conversely, John Frusciante's weird, homemade solo albums while hooked on heroin may have been hard to listen to, but at least they bared his struggles for us to appreciate. Which reminds me, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are equally culpable of this curse... since they all got clean (and we all know they did because it seemed like all of "Californication" was explicitly, unrelentingly telling us this much), their music is now absolutely intolerable.
So that's just a small slab of the music world covered. If you look at film, check out George Lucas, whose bloated oeuvre became a sad parody of itself once the dude had more money than Jesus. Or books (we already mentioned King), where John Grisham can ejaculate a 372-page law/crime/scandal-packed novel every 12 months, each more contrived and devoted to legal minutiae than the last. In his new one, I hear some guy exploits a 401(k) loophole in conjunction with new legislation offsetting tax liens for offshore companies, with spooky, violent, and breathtaking results! Thrills ensue!
But I digress, and shift back to Wilco with the full brunt of my ire.
I beg the soft-rock collective to get Tweedy a forged 'scrip or two so we might be able to enjoy their output once again. Until then, their tunes are fast approaching Michael McDonald territory.
And you know what's funny about Michael McDonald? Never did a fuckin' drug in his life. Never had a nervous breakdown in his life, either, and you can hear it in that debilitating, nerve-damaging shite he calls music.