I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
October 11, 2002 7:40 AM   Subscribe

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart is the new Wilco documentary, directed by rock photographer Sam Jones. It's part fan letter, part sharp reality soap opera on the personality conflicts that drive and tear apart great musical collaborations. Whither the band movie? This one has drawn comparisons to Hard Day's Night, Don't Look Back, and Rattle + Hum. Are those puff pieces or portraits of the artists...and what about comedies like Head and Spinal Tap? What makes a music movie compelling for fans and non-fans? More on Wilco inside...
posted by serafinapekkala (28 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
now i can gush about IATTBYH...i saw it last night and it was way better than i expected, *because* it wasn't just grainy concert footage and babbling talking heads. it's visually beautiful and has a tightly edited narrative. Sam Jones happened to pick this year to follow the band around and it turned out to be their most tumultuous and successful. the film captures it all: recording sessions, catfights, firing a bandmate, getting dumped by the record label and then finding serendipitous success. i always liked Hard Day's Night for the same reasons, but a lot of these movies ("Truth or Dare" comes to mind...though, is that really in the same category?) are deadly boring and vapid. this just made me an even bigger wilco fan.
posted by serafinapekkala at 7:58 AM on October 11, 2002

Loved it too, serafina. There's a very good Sam Jones interview here

Jeff Tweedy's one of the greatest American songwriters of our time -- I mean, you can't fuck with stuff like "I am an American aquarium drinker / I assassin down the avenue"

Don't Look Back remains _the_ music documentary ( I don't consider Hard Day's to be strictly nonfiction). But
Don't forget about Danny Clinch's great Ben Harper movie
posted by matteo at 8:01 AM on October 11, 2002

I agree, serafinapekkala, I saw the film last week. I'm not really even a fan of the band, but the film stands on its own chronicling the creative process behind the album, and the business pressures that conflict with the "art" they're trying to create. I think it might be one of the best I've seen, though I'd compare it more to the Radiohead documentary Meeting People Is Easy.
posted by greengrl at 8:05 AM on October 11, 2002

woah matteo, what is this Ben Harper movie you speak of? must investigate...and as for JT's lyrical genius, i will always stand by "I dreamed about killing you again last night / and it felt alright to me..."

greengrl: the Radiohead movie is a good parallel...i liked that one because it punctured the "Thom Yorke is god" mystique while simultaneously kind of furthering it, and the whole bit about "Jeff wants to be the center of the circle" business in IATTBYH reminded me of that.
posted by serafinapekkala at 8:31 AM on October 11, 2002

(Warning: major Wilco fan about to rave about a specific moment in the film) Such beautiful irony in this documentary. I especially enjoyed hearing "My Darling" after Jay Bennett's departure. In my opinion, it was a such a great representation of the five individuals' reluctant acceptance of the band's future, Jay Bennett included.

Grow up now
My darlin
Please don't you grow up too fast
And be sure, darlin
To make all the good times last

Because we made you
My darlin
With the love in each of our hearts
We were a family, my darlin
Right from the start

I warned you. I'm pretty nuts about this band. YHF is one of the best albums I've ever heard.
posted by BirdD0g at 8:35 AM on October 11, 2002

I'm looking forward to seeing the documentary, but I don't know where it will play here in Toronto. Though Pitchfork ran a pretty interesting, and even somewhat balanced, criticism of the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot legend here. Does the documentary dwell on that conflict very much, 'cause it would suck if it wasn't true.
posted by UncleDave at 8:36 AM on October 11, 2002

The movie opens in Toronto at the Carleton (down the street from MLG) cinemas on October 25th.

I've been following the website of this movie (wilcofilm.com) since it started, mostly just watching the outtakes that he posted. I'm also really really looking foward to seeing it.

Wilco are a great band..and it should be interesting to see a real rock and roll "drama" that doesn't involve drug overdoses and stripper girlfriends.
posted by Adam_S at 8:50 AM on October 11, 2002

BirdD0g, I have the same feeling whenever I hear that song on Jay Bennett and Edward Burch's record, The Palace at 4 am (which as a huge fan of the band you should get if you don't have it).
posted by trox at 10:26 AM on October 11, 2002

Absolutely, trox. I definitely prefer, however, Jeff Tweedy's take of songs over Jay Bennett's. I think anyone interested in this band and the events of last year, needs to invest some time and money into Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, The YHF Demos, and The Palace at 4am. The different takes of these songs allow musicians especially, to better understand the creative differences of Tweedy and Bennett. I've always viewed JT as more of an "artist" and JB as a more of a "musician."

A friend gave me the YHF Demos, and has since moved away, so I'm not sure where one can pick it up. It's basically the ideas of YHF without the incredible structure.
posted by BirdD0g at 10:52 AM on October 11, 2002

I can't wait to see this. I loved UT, all the things that Jay & Jeff have done since then. But personally, and I know i'm going to get flamed for this, I preferred Wilco pre-YHF.
posted by jbelshaw at 10:56 AM on October 11, 2002

A friend gave me the YHF Demos, and has since moved away, so I'm not sure where one can pick it up. It's basically the ideas of YHF without the incredible structure.

someone must copy this and we'll do a little MeFi-CD-sub-swap...i would also love to have a recording of the versions of the songs *in* the movie...we can all dream...
posted by serafinapekkala at 10:57 AM on October 11, 2002

I preferred Wilco pre-YHF.

speak on, dear friend...why is that? is it the "they're jumping the shark b/c they're being lauded as geniuses" thing? or you just like the earlier sound? for me, Wilco is the opposite of REM, i like them better with each new release. full disclosure: i started listening to them *after* i got Mermaid Avenue vol.I as a gift, and then worked my way back. i think i could listen to disc one of "Being There" over and over until doomsday, but YHF is like this stunning achievement that gets better the more i listen to it. uh, oh right, i was asking for *your* thoughts...
posted by serafinapekkala at 11:00 AM on October 11, 2002

so I'm not sure where one can pick it up


(not that any of us would do anything not RIAA-sanctioned of course)

I love the demos, but really they're just great sketches

On the other hand, there's a particular live version of Misunderstood that really kicks the studio album' version's ass...
posted by matteo at 11:03 AM on October 11, 2002

Its not so much that i don't like YHF, on the contrary, i think its one of the best cds of the past couple of years. You hit it on the head, i prefer the earlier sound. I saw Wilco from ~10 ft at the Austin City Limits Festival a couple weeks ago, and enjoyed the show, afterwards my friend turned to me and asked when did Wilco become Radiohead. ;)
posted by jbelshaw at 11:11 AM on October 11, 2002


"The Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Cover-Up" from pitchforkmedia.com.
posted by Pinwheel at 11:12 AM on October 11, 2002

you can't fuck with stuff like "I am an American aquarium drinker / I assassin down the avenue"

Well, if you say so. I don't get it myself. Wilco -- and I've tried, honestly I have -- have always struck me as like a moody blurred charcoal drawing, and if such things appeal to you, then bravo. As it is, I appreciate the occassional concrete detail, I like to be compelled to dance or something rather than be moodied on, I don't like the marriage of songcraft with mopiness, and I don't get such apparently-obvious concepts as what, say, the phrase "summer teeth" is supposed to evoke. Or, for that matter, "I assassin down the avenue."

Okay, that was a rant. Wilco's all right. But they do cause overreactions among people who think that blakck-and-white film and uncapitalized titles are Very Arty Indeed.
posted by argybarg at 11:16 AM on October 11, 2002

I love the progressions here too.
Bennett leaves.
Then Wilco gets dropped from Time Warner. Then a subsidiary of Time Warner picks them up (in effect paying for the album twice).
and then Jay Bennett puts out his album on a minor label which is then bought by Time Warner....
fairly freaky..
posted by dig_duggler at 11:57 AM on October 11, 2002

Here's why I don't like the YHF Wilco (at least live). I saw Wilco about 4-5 times in the periods after A.M and Being There came out, and they were thriving at that time. In the film, you hear Tweedy ranting about not wanting to just go out and do "an easy rocker", but the easy rockers are the song's that feed the audiences energy. It's unfortunate that Bennett was kicked out of the band, because he added a lot to Wilco. I would have kicked him out of the band as well (he was acting kind of like a primadonna), but he fleshed out their sound and knows how to play very good lead and rhythm guitar. Leroy Bach just can't play guitar as well. You can even see it in the film when they play live after Bennett has left the group. There's just something missing live, especially on the rockers.

The Pitchfork story is utter bullshit and unfounded speculation that should have never left the drawing board. The writer teases by saying "But what if this had happened?", but then cops out in the last paragraph. The film never says that the label was evil. Maybe some journalists might have used that as their angle, but I think the film offers an honest depiction of events, with no narration. It wasn't a Broomfield thing at all.

BTW, wasn't Fred Armisen (the "Latin" interviewer) hilarious? And doesn't everyone know that Tweedy and Armisen were joking around when he was talking about stock portfolios?
posted by timothompson at 12:03 PM on October 11, 2002

BTW, wasn't Fred Armisen (the "Latin" interviewer) hilarious?

i thought i was having some kind of fugue state when he popped up: "Isn't that the "I'm just keedeeng!" guy from Weekend Update last week?" tee hee.
posted by serafinapekkala at 12:08 PM on October 11, 2002

I don't get such apparently-obvious concepts as what, say, the phrase "summer teeth" is supposed to evoke. Or, for that matter, "I assassin down the avenue."

I admit "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" struck me at first as a bit confusing lyrically. It was only reading David Fricke's excellent review in Rolling Stone that I fully grasped the genius of it. "A minutely detailed portrait of the singer as blind drunk" - that's it exactly. It also helps explain the left-field line "Take off your bandaid 'cause I don't believe in touchdowns" later in the song.

Now I think of that line - "I assasin down the avenue" - every single time I spill out of some pub well after midnight overcome by that stumbling drunk indestructible elation that six pints or so can create.

Also: I've seen Wilco live four times, and for my money each show has been nothing short of brilliant (the Being There tour was pure punk energy, the YHF show was closer to seeing a noise-rock symphony, etc.).

Love the Wilco, is my point. Can't wait till the movie opens in my town in two weeks.
posted by gompa at 12:32 PM on October 11, 2002

The Pitchfork story is utter bullshit and unfounded speculation that should have never left the drawing board.

I thought it had some good points, and the writer certainly does issue enough caveats to make its publication acceptable--it's never passed off as anything more than speculation. One thing that especially disappoints me about the Wilco story is the fact that after being screwed over and treated like shit by Reprise, they were more than happy to walk through the door of another major label and sign on the dotted line. Based on the movie, it didn't seem like they even considered an indie label, which would seem like a natural reaction to being mistreated by a major label. This fact doesn't lead me to the same conclusions that author of the Pitchfork piece was led to; it seemed to me (again, based entirely on the movie) that it was less a case of the band being in it for the money than it was a case of the band being completely under the thumb of its management. Which made me lose a little respect for the band (though I'm willing to believe this might be a false impression created by the truncated version of the story told in the movie). It's not like I expected Wilco to start its own label and start pressing and distributing its own cds (though that would have been very, very cool). It just seemed like they missed an opportunity by taking their ownership of this brilliant album and signing it over to yet another major label. You know what they say in Texas: "Fool me once, shame... shame on you, fool me twice, uh... uhhh.... You can't get fooled again."
posted by mr_roboto at 2:02 PM on October 11, 2002

For those interested, Wilco will be visiting KCRW's Sounds Eclectic this weekend for a live set. Songs performed: Less Than You Think, I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, War on War, I’m The Man Who Loves You, Reservations. I know the link is there now, but it doesn't link to the show yet. It should, however, be the repeat of this show if you want to listen to it now.
posted by eyeballkid at 2:04 PM on October 11, 2002

It's not like I expected Wilco to start its own label and start pressing and distributing its own cds (though that would have been very, very cool).

yes. and very, very difficult -- distribution nightmares, anyone?
Dave Eggers -- see yesterday's thread -- is trying to do that in the less complicated book publishing business -- it's a pain in the ass I bet
posted by matteo at 2:07 PM on October 11, 2002

seems if i were to mention less-then-outsider music, i would be referred to multiple threads on outsider music.... but you are allowed to mention a popular (at least as far as the genre will allow) indie rock band? that people have either at least heard of (if young and like music) or not (if not)?
i'm not mad, i'm just wondering how it works here.
at least i know to mention pancakes
posted by the aloha at 2:23 PM on October 11, 2002

A music movie that is compelling to me is one that makes me want to run out immediately and start a band!
posted by Wylie Kyoto at 2:24 PM on October 11, 2002

The Pamela Anderson / Tommy Lee video?
posted by matteo at 2:55 PM on October 11, 2002

Hadn't really heard much Wilco when I went and saw the movie (though I did like Uncle Tupelo way back in the day.) Couldn't get the movie or the songs out of my head -- walked from the theater to the local Virgin Megastore (I know, I know) and immediately picked up YHF and am thrilled with it. Will investigate the rest of their oeuvre when time and funds permit.

Really liked the way the movie was shot -- felt more like an anti-"Hard Day's Night" in terms of mood. I loved the minimalist, almost crystalline photography...especially the shot where the four of them (post-Jay) are wandering by the lake. Good stuff.
posted by Vidiot at 9:17 AM on October 12, 2002

Anyone else notice that everything David Fricke said was absolutely content-free?
posted by jon_kill at 5:04 PM on October 12, 2002

« Older However you spell it, it sounds like good news.   |   The Photon Belt Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments