Friday, August 3, 2018

GIVE BACK MY TV; IT DON'T MEAN THAT MUCH TO ME: Hi, me again, another review of an album for the Best Album of 1993 bracket-style tournament.  Follow @bestalbum1995 and vote for your favorite albums, unless they are matched up against PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me!

Perhaps, in 1993, you were 23 years old, and your friends invited you to a weird club (which you called the United Nations, because of its semicircle-tiers-of-tables setup) in a weird sleepy neighborhood to see a band on the rise touring their newest album.  If so, that band, and that album, would imprint itself on your mid-twenties.  It would become the soundtrack to road trips, to drunken camping trips, to the breakup of a couple of your best friends.  You’d later form a band with one of the guys who invited you to the concert; your drummer would, coincidentally, have taken drum lessons from that other band’s drummer; and you’d cover one of the songs from the album during messy, noisy practices in dim basements.  At the concert, the band wore cowboy hats and ripped through tight versions of their songs, cover songs, and old standards, all sounding suspended somewhere closer to the twangier side of a wire tethering 70s folk-country to early 90s garage rock.  They’d pause for long stretches between songs, trading instruments with each other and with a harried roadie.  The two singers barely looked at each other.  They finished with a cover of Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,” and they broke up within months.    

That was Uncle Tupelo, and the album was Anodyne.  Uncle Tupelo had earlier invented the country-punk (though, really, neither) movement called No Depression with their album entitled, ahem, No Depression, and whatever that was, they perfected it with their perfect March 16-20, 1992, a combination of originals and standards whose hasty assembly manages to convey intimacy and urgency.  Anodyne was to be Uncle Tupelo’s breakthrough, like Nevermind was Nirvana’s and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain was supposed to be Pavement’s.  Every song on Anodyne is great or close to it.  There are Jay Farrar mopes ("Anodyne"; "Slate"); genuinely sad Farrar breakup epics (“High Water”; “Steal the Crumbs”); combative romps (Farrar’s “Chickamauga”; Tweedy’s “New Madrid”); and genuinely funny tunes (Tweedy’s “Acuff-Rose” and “We’ve Been Had”).  Plus, there’s the so-seventies-country-it-might-be-parody “Give Back the Key to my Heart,” which you just kind of have to hear.  This is just a great collection of pop-folk-country-rock, a great band’s swan song and the No Depression version of the Beatles’ Let it Be.  I don’t think it’s the greatest album of 1993, but to me, it’s top-5, maybe top-3.  Don't let it lose to, like, Counting Crows or James, please.