As a big fan of Wilco, and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, it’s crazy it took me this many years to watch this movie. But it’s possible that the intervening years gave me some clarity with it, that I might not have had when I was first falling in love with this band (more than a few years after this movie came out).
When the film first came out, the saga of this album was still fresh, and widely known. But, in 2020, it’s not. And one of the first things you notice about this film is that it is made for that time, and for fans of the band. (Or, at the very least, music fans who read the music press.) I watched this with my girlfriend, and I constantly felt the need to add context. (Which I hopefully mostly resisted.)
The film doesn’t provide much context on Wilco’s career to date, on the nature of the music industry at the time or even that much context of why Reprise might reject the record.
And that’s the weirdest part. There is some footage of the recording and mixing processes which gives some moderate idea of the music they were making, which in turn gives you some vague idea of why the label might reject it. I know, as I’ve heard the album (and its predecessors) many times. And presumably audiences in 2002.
But what are non-Wilco fans supposed to think? Much of the music in the second half is concert performances – including one that is a little Spinal Tap eseque – which are more straightforward than the record. But some of that material is from Being There or Summerteeth. The live stuff, the demos and even a little bit of the recording makes this sound like any old ’90s indie rock band
I am a fan of this band. Maybe not as devoted a fan as I was 10 years ago, but still a pretty big fan. I’ll watch most stuff about them, and I’ll enjoy it. But I’m not sure this movie does enough to really show why this album was a big deal, either in terms of the music it actually contains or because of what happened with its release.