Uncle Tupelo
Anodyne


4.5
superb

Review

by KjD USER (3 Reviews)
January 24th, 2010 | 13 replies


Release Date: 1993 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An alt-country masterpiece.

Jeff Tweedy is probably best known as the genius behind alt rock darlings Wilco. Currently a six-piece, Wilco has released acclaimed album after acclaimed album, cementing themselves as one of today’s most loved alternative bands. However, hiding underneath the shadow of this Illinois sextet is Mr. Tweedy’s earlier band, the significantly lesser known Uncle Tupelo. Evolving out of garage rock band The Primitives, Uncle Tupelo’s original line-up of Jay Farrar (Guitar, Vocals), Jeff Tweedy (Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals) and Mike Heidorn (Drums) put out three albums in the early 90s, the abrasive country/punk monster “No Depression“ in 1990, the more polished and refined “Still Feel Gone” in 91, and their acoustic release “March 16-20, 1992“ the year after. After replacing the departed Mike Heidorn with Ken Coomer, and then adding John Stirratt (Guitar, Bass) and multi-instrumentalist Max Johnston to the line-up, the band set off to record their major label debut, Anodyne.

The term “Anodyne” is defined by dictionary.com as “A medicine that relieves or allays pain.”. Compared to the punk rock influence of the first two albums and the stripped down acoustic arrangements of “March 16-20, 1992“, Anodyne comes across sounding exactly like it’s name suggests. Dense instrumentally and lyrically, "Anodyne" is different from the other releases in Tupelo‘s limited discography, trading the distorted guitars and Minutemen influenced start-stop structures found in songs such as “No Depression’s” “Graveyard Shift” for more complex arrangements featuring a more prominent use of the fiddle and steel guitar. This new sound is well demonstrated by “No Sense In Lovin’” and the title track. Both are propelled by a pedal steel guitar (played by special guest Lloyd Maines) while the rest of the band jogs along underneath. Also present are acoustic songs such as the relaxing fiddle-led opener “Slate”, and the Doug Sahm cover “Give Back The Key To My Heart” which features the country legend himself on guitar and vocals.

Vocal duties on “Anodyne” are shared by Jay and Jeff, who each sing lead on their own compositions. Despite the fact that their voices are both very different from each other's (Jay sings in raspy howl while Jeff uses his signature tenor), they both complement each other very nicely when they sing together such as in the chorus of “New Madrid“. Also, having two vocalists ensures that neither voice will become tiring to the listener by the end of the record. As mentioned earlier, country prodigy Doug Sahm contributes vocals on “Give Back The Key To My Heart”, singing the second verse while Jay handles the first. One of the album’s vocal highlights is the song’s second chorus, which has Jay, Jeff, and Doug all singing together.

Some songs such as “The Long Cut” and “Chickamauga” are a nod back to the band’s heavier roots. A high point in Jeff Tweedy’s career as a songwriter, “The Long Cut” also boasts some of his best vocals and a very impressive lead guitar performance from Jay. On the other hand, “Chickamauga” is all Jay’s show. The song features some great vocal hooks, and climaxes with Farrar’s best guitar solo on the album. All in all, “Anodyne” is an alternative country masterpiece , and is a great entry album for anyone looking to get into the genre. Just don’t be expecting Wilco.


user ratings (35)
Chart.
4
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
KjD
January 24th 2010


13 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is kind of in between a 4.5 and a 5 for me, so I thought I'd be on the safe side and leave it at 4.5 for now. I might bump it up to a 5 in the near future. Seriously a great album that everyone should check out.

robin
Emeritus
January 24th 2010


4261 Comments


uncle tupelo is awesome

tom79
January 24th 2010


3384 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

No Depression is great, I will look into this for sure.

Digging: Bent Outta Shape - Bent Outta Shape

KjD
January 25th 2010


13 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah, No Depression is awesome. You'll probably like this, but keep in mind that the sound is quite different from No Depression.

Spec
April 21st 2011


27297 Comments


These guys are so often overlooked.

porch
April 21st 2011


8460 Comments


they were okay

a lot better than wilco and son volt at least

Spec
April 21st 2011


27297 Comments


Not a Wilco fan I presume?

porch
April 21st 2011


8460 Comments


nah most of their material bores me

i like 'march 16-20' though

Spec
April 22nd 2011


27297 Comments


At first I thought the same. Took a while but now, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is one of my all time favourite albums. "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" and "Ashes Of American Flags" make that album alone.

NodScene23
October 24th 2013


272 Comments


Great review, KjD.

ExcentrifugalForz
February 8th 2014


1848 Comments


In hindsight this band has amazing pedigree.
But I don't like this as much as what these members would go on to create.
This record is good but a little too generic.

qwe3
February 21st 2014


21369 Comments


i think i prefer this band to Wilco but both are pretty fantastic

qwe3
February 21st 2014


21369 Comments


and oh gods their version of moonshiner is gorgeous



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