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Wilco

Being There – 1996 (Warner)

Reviewed by Roy Kasten

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CDs by Wilco

Wilco's follow up to "A.M." is the strange, noisy, unchannelled, dissonant, seductive, tuneful, and fiercely joyful result of the burden of expectations. Jeff Tweedy founded Uncle Tupelo, and inadvertently inspired a country insurgency. This double CD is Tweedy's kiss-off.

"Misunderstood" opens with primitive feedback, melting into six string and piano. "I want to thank you all for nothing," Tweedy cries over tribal drumming. We know this isn't to be a record of subtleties. Or is it? "Far, Far Away" is sing-song mastery, with a hop-a-long beat and tipsy voice. Another acoustic ballad, "The Lonely 1," is a vulnerable love letter to a gold lame star (Phil Ochs or Elvis?). But then "Monday" crunches and funks, dishing horns and handclaps.

Tweedy's best song is "Sunken Treasure," dense, magical, buzzing with acoustic strings and Ken Coomer's percussive fireworks. "Music is my savior, but I was maimed by rock 'n roll," Tweedy cries, calling for an independence that borders on aggression.

But quiet pleasures offer balm: a delicate banjo, a pedal steel and organ in harmony, or an ever-steady two-step beat. Sure, at 77 minutes this is too long, and some songs are sketchy. The sum, whatever it is, is always honest, melodic, and fascinating, a Sgt. Pepper's of alt.country - and the most exciting record of the year.