Song of the Day #372: ‘My Darling’ – Wilco

summerteethI don’t know if any band in my collection has had as extreme a swing in my estimation as Wilco. Once upon a time they were firing on all cylinders to such a degree that I numbered them among my very favorite bands. But that lasted for three albums. Now, three more albums later, I’m largely indifferent about them. I’ve been tempted a couple of times to check out their latest release, Wilco (the Album), but never enough to do anything about it.

I imagine this is what it’s like when you fall out of love with a woman. She goes from inhabiting your every thought to not stirring any emotion in you whatsoever. As Fiona Apple puts it in her beautiful song ‘Love Ridden’: “No, not ‘baby’ anymore, if I need you I’ll just use your simple name… only kisses on the cheek from now on, and in a little while we’ll only have to wave.”

So I’m on a waving basis with Wilco in their current incarnation, but several years ago I adored everything about them. And I still adore the three albums for which I first fell and fell hard — Being There, Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

Summerteeth was my first exposure to the band and probably my favorite of their albums, though all three are exceptional. Summerteeth is one of those albums that tries to do a hundred different things and somehow manages to do them all well and still feel like a cohesive album in the process (Elvis Costello’s Spike is another example that comes to mind). Lead singer/songwriter Jeff Tweedy and company try their hand at doo wop, atmospheric ballads, power pop, even a mini-concerto.

‘My Darling’ is a rather straight-forward lullaby turned a bit surreal through the instrumentation and production. It’s a beautiful melody and sentiment but the music is unsettling (in a good way). At their best, Wilco has a gift for using ambient sounds and dissonance to stir emotion… it’s the sort of gift great sound mixers bring to great films. They do it here, and they took it to great heights on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

This song, and this album, owe an awful lot to The Beatles. I’m reminded of something Ben Folds said… that The Beatles basically did everything there is to do in modern music and that every band since takes a piece of what The Beatles did and makes it their own. Wilco did that splendidly for a few years. I hope one day they win me back.

Go back to sleep now
My darling
And I’ll keep all the bad dreams away
Breathe now, think sweet things
And I’ll think of all the right words to say

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

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

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


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4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #372: ‘My Darling’ – Wilco

  1. Amy says:

    I’d like to investigate the metaphor you’ve created here. Do you think the woman (Wilco) changed in some way you couldn’t abide by? Or had she (Wilco) deceived you in a fundamental way from the start?

    Or do you think you’re to blame? Did you change? Have a mid-life music crisis? Need some younger, cooler model to replace the too familiar?

    Or did you both just simply grow apart? Hmmm…. what gives?

    I’m wondering if your initial infatuation was made more intense by some outside factors you haven’t mentioned here. This song is nice enough, but it pales in comparison to “Gracie” or “The Things We Handed Down,” two songs it reminds me of lyrically (though I far prefer the musical composition – and the lyrics, too, for that matter) of those two songs. Why no love affair with Marc Cohn. I know you did/do have one with Ben Folds. Are you a Mormon?

  2. Clay says:

    I think the woman (Wilco) changed into something I no longer found interesting.

  3. Dana says:

    I’ve enjoyed many of Wilco’s songs that have found their way mysteriously onto my IPod through an initial music transfer from Clay. I think they have a great sound, and it’s a shame if they really went downhill.

    I think Clay’s analogy goes back to our “fan” discussion. Let’s face it, there are only so many artists for which you can truly have a great love. After that, the best you can have is a whole bunch of musical “one night stands” and fond memories of those lovers you’ve left behind.

    Wilco, for Clay it seems, falls into the past lovers category. Neko Case might be an example of a one night stand (and like any one night stand, things could become more serious if the “music” is good enough and the relationship develops). Ben Folds, of course, has been and remains a solid lover for Clay, although Folds is presently in the (errant) dog house a bit after his latest album.

    I suppose the real question is whether an artist with whom you were at one time heavily involved can ever really just be a one night stand? I think possibly not. Clay has eschewed getting the new Wilco album, perhaps because he remains so jilted by his past experiences. But for that intense history, maybe Clay would be far more likely to just casually pick up that Wilco album and have a more superficial relationship with the band. Of course,time heals all wounds, so maybe in a few years, when the hurt feelings are gone, Clay will see that Wilco album at the used CD store for $2.99 and, feel sorry for how far his former love has fallen and buy the CD for old times sake.) And, Clay, if that should occur, please let us know if it was “good for you.” :)

  4. Clay says:

    I wouldn’t say they’ve gone downhill, really, because they’ve continued to experiment with new sounds and directions and have received critical acclaim along the way. It’s just that those new directions have moved them out of the sweet spot where those three albums lined up perfectly with my taste.

    I liken them to Radiohead, who put out two albums I really love but then released a series of albums (each one critically praised) that I find boring and obnoxious.

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