Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Gravity’s the winner

#1 Uncle Tupelo, March 16-20, 1992 (Rockville, 1992)

As others have remarked here, the less said about the top favorites, probably the better. I should also note that I wrote a paper about this album for a creative non-fiction writing class in college, and that kinda burst into flames, so will try to keep this short. This record is Uncle Tupelo’s stripped down acoustic album. Several of the tracks are covers or arrangements of traditional or country gospel songs, including standouts “Atomic Power,” “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down,” and “Moonshiner” This album tops my list because it was almost quite literally a friend to me during college days – it’s very melancholy, of course, and good for all the post-adolescent self-pity, but it’s also very warm and inviting. It has a bit more of a Farrar than Tweedy vibe (though that might be Wilco-influenced hindsight), but it includes my favorite tracks of Tweedy as a singer. My favorite thing about this record is its ending – after a string of mostly desperate stories, the penultimate track, “Sandusky,” a bright instrumental, offers a glimmer of real hope. The last song, though (“Wipe the Clock”) is perhaps sadder than the rest and concludes with this great couplet – “Ain’t it hard/ when the spirit doesn’t catch you?/ Gravity’s the winner / and it weighs you down” – followed by 15 seconds of wailing harmonica. Then: end of disc. It slams the door on the glimpse of hope in “Sandusky”, but it does so while the experience of hearing “Sandusky” is still vivid. This album puts hope and despair right up next to one another; we know that one of them is the literal winner, but I always think of March 16-20 as suggesting that they are just two sides of the same coin. That, and Uncle Tupelo rules.


Sean B said...

A footnote: For what it’s worth, I’ve never really been able to get into Cat Power, primarily because her cover of Moonshiner sounds to me lackadaisical and hipster-aloof compared to UT’s face-meltingly sad version. Consequently, I (probably unfairly) hear all of Cat Power’s music, aside from some of Moon Pix, in that vein and it leaves me cold and uninterested.

Urbane Master said...

This record makes me want to ride and meet my savior in the air. As does Sean B's thoughtful list.