What does it sound like?:
A rerelease for the first two Wilco albums, from 1995 and 96 respectively, one with rather more deluxe trappings than the other.
AM was the band’s début album, following the demise of Uncle Tupelo. A single cd set, it comprises the original album plus a further eight previously unreleased songs, including apparently the last ever song recorded by Uncle Tupelo. I’ve always found this album to be a rather unfocused effort, upbeat but somehow unsatisfying – the sound of a band finding its feet. The unreleased songs are actually as good as anything on the finished album really – Myrna Lee, for example, would have sat comfortably in the original track listing. Points deducted for the awful sleeve design, with song titles printed in black against a dark brown background, rendering them almost unreadable. Nevertheless, this is a promising, solid, if somewhat unspectacular, début.
The following year’s Being There comes as a sprawling five cd set, including the original double album, two cds worth of live material from 1996 and a further cd of outtakes and unreleased songs. None of the bonus material appears on the 2014 Alpha Mike Foxtrot rarities set, which gives an indication of just how prolific Jeff Tweedy was. While some of these pieces are simply early or alternate versions of songs that appeared on the album, showing alternative directions that the band could have followed, there are also plenty of examples of songs that seem to have been discarded altogether for no obvious reason. Certainly Dynamite In My Soul, I Can’t Keep From Talking and Better When I’m Gone could again have easily fitted in to the feel of the album that was eventually released. Overall though, this is one of the band’s best albums, and has aged well over the past twenty years.
What does it all *mean*?
Two similar but also contrasting sets, showing a good deal of development in the band’s song writing and performing, particularly considering there was only a year between them. The experimental territory the band was to explore so successfully in the masterful Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was still some years in the future, but the seeds were already being sown here.
Goes well with…
Americana and experimentation.
Might suit people who like…
Uncle Tupelo, Gram Parsons, Crazy Horse.