Review Summary: Wilco and Sonic Youth members rediscover the 70's with a fun, but overall lacking sophomore LP.
Hearing my hopes and dreams come crashing down through two cheap ear buds was not the plan for my freshman year at high school, but it sort of happened when I finally heard a band I had been fantasizing about for months. Loose Fur is a novel concept. Two of indie’s greatest heroes (Jim O’Rourke and Jeff Tweedy for those who need to know) join forces with drummer Glenn Kotche to destroy the world in a haze of decomposing pianos and guitar fuzz. Or at least that’s what it was in my mind, but I guess that’s what happens when you hear about a band you know you’re going to love (if you’ve never actually heard them that is). You just build them up, higher and higher. No. In reality Loose Fur is most definitely Jeff Tweedy and Jim O’Rourke, but the sound way more Dolly Parton meets Genesis than Deerhoof meets Grandaddy. Is that a bad thing? No, but it certainly did get me a bit disappointed when I first listened it.
The band’s sophomore effort, Born Again in the USA really doesn’t really start to impress until O’Rourke takes over the mic during the calming, very well-written Answers to Your Questions, but even then, the change between Tweedy’s two opening tracks (the fun, but nothing special rocker Hey Chicken and the cool throwback pop of The Ruling Class) seems sloppy and forced, like the band came up with a bunch of different songs and just threw them onto a CD, without any consideration of the track list or the album’s overall feel. And the changes just get worse from there (see, well, the rest of the album). But there’s no doubt the rolling acoustic guitars and haunting vocals of Answers are nothing short of great. O’Rourke, when he’s not making noise with Sonic Youth, does an extremely believable job singing like a 70’s Prog Rock star and the song features perhaps the best lyrics on the entire album. Unfortunately there is no success for Jim’s next vocal performance, which comes in the arms of annoying rocker Stupid as the Sun. His voice is very emotionless and, well, just bad. Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche gets in some great fills towards the end of the song, but for the most part the musicianship, despite some red hot guitars, is pretty bland, not even holding a match (let alone a candle) to that of the guys’ former works.
Jeff is obviously a better singer than Jim, as evidenced by Wanted, a mellow Progressive Folk jam with a hooky chorus melody and bouncy verses, where Tweedy’s delicate, but decidedly rough vocals meet up with an ironically epic guitar crescendo, featuring a hilariously Joe Satriani worthy tone, but even his vocals can’t save the rest of the CD. The boys actually sound their best on the instrumental interlude, An Ecumenical Matter, where their blend of 70’s classic rock and 2000’s alt country flirts the “took it too far” line before melting away into another O’Rourke number, Thou Shalt Wilt (in which he blends curse words with School House Rock style pop) after a slightly over blown solo. All things considered, Born Again in the USA is in no way a bad album, far from it, it’s (sort of) fun, (sort of) creative and probably the closest I’ll ever come to liking this kind of music. Overall Tweedy and O’Rourke do a fine job setting out to do what they wanted to (assuming they wanted to make a heavily 70’s influenced Country Rock record) and it has a few really great tracks on it, but if you’re looking for brilliance go more towards the Wilco section of your local CD store.