Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wilco From the Ashes

By David Luhrssen
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Wilco has grown older, extending its reach without entirely outgrowing the No Depression movement that nurtured the band in the early years of the 1990s. Unlike many two-dimensional cow punks and shallow traffickers in Americana, Wilco had enough substance and vision to build a body of work that continues to widen in scope.

In concert footage from the documentary Ashes of American Flags (out April 28 on DVD), the band expands out of homespun verities into the blazing solos and skillful musicianship that was once considered progressive rock (before the term shriveled into an excuse for pretentious bombast). They are striving to find the place mapped out in the late 1960s by the Band, even if that place has faded like an old photograph and left behind only ghosts. Ashes shows one of Wilcos members taking Polaroid snapshots of the old towns they pass through on an endless tour. Pictures of a fading America with a fading technology, he explains. Their music is like that.

In short interviews as the tour bus rolls through the breathtaking beauty of the American heartland, Wilco explains its music as their version of old-fashioned representational art, innocent of too much intellectual abstraction, in songs that tell stories and paint pictures in the minds eye.

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