Wilco | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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I'm not sure who first used the term "No Depression"--the title of Uncle Tupelo's debut album--to describe country-friendly rock bands like the Jayhawks, Bottle Rockets, and Wilco, but it's a pretty silly notion. Rock bands have incorporated the sounds of country music for as long as rock's been played, if not longer; country mothered rock. So what's the big fuggin' deal? Wilco, the quintet led by former Uncle Tupelo coconspirator Jeff Tweedy, don't make a fuss about their infectious twang quotient, just as most folks don't point out that they keep their hair trimmed to a certain length; it's just a given. The band's striking debut, A.M. (Sire/Reprise), makes its way from blustery rock--dig the T. Rex-AC/DC square dance hybrid of the raucous "Casino Queen"--to more delicate bluegrassy-inflected pop hooks ("That's Not the Issue") to gorgeous post-Gram Parsons heartbreak ("It's Just That Simple") without guideposts and without a ten-gallon hat. Tweedy's come a long way from his UT days: both his songwriting and singing have drastically improved, and where his raspy vocals once sounded tangled up and overly earnest, they now deliver hooky melodies with a genuinely affecting grace and subtle sophistication. He's supported by a crack band--guitarist Jay Bennett, drummer Ken Coomer, bassist John Stirrat, and multiinstrumentalist Max Johnston--who absolutely cook live. Outrageous Cherry open. Friday, 9 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield; 472-0449 or 559-1212.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Brad Miller.

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