Uncle Tupelo
Still Feel Gone


4.5
superb

Review

by NodScene23 USER (12 Reviews)
October 23rd, 2013 | 5 replies | 768 views


Release Date: 1991 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Not as subtly engrossing as Anodyne, but still measured and without compromise to sonic power.

1 of 1 thought this review was well written

As stalwarts of the then “alt country” underground, Uncle Tupelo broke ground in the early 90’s with their potent blend of manic punk fury and the melodic/lyrical sensibilities of country music. Their first record No Depression was an impressive nod to the separate styles, but no one would argue a true fusion occurred. The band’s potential was obvious, but it was clear there was room to grow in the compositional department. No Depression revealed a band of great breadth, one with the ability to kick your teeth in with breakneck tempos while also exploring their own interpretation of the lyrical and musical earnestness of traditional country music. Jeff Tweedy and Jar Farrar were seemingly “duking it out” for front man credibility of the band, but their separate visions find cohesion in this release. For a 90’s audience that would soon be embracing the likes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam, Uncle Tupelo was an act that was just as significant in terms of their ability to pay ode to seemingly disparate musical styles. Still Feel Gone is sandwiched in between their two most iconic releases, but it may rank as their strongest and most consistent album as it sees them wonderfully incorporating the best elements of their broad musical heritage. If you want to hear a band that might cite Gram Parsons, Neil Young, or Steve Earle as equal influences to any 70’s or 80’s punk band you care to name, Uncle Tupelo delivers.

As the predecessor to their major label debut Anodyne, Still Feel Gone is a mature and balanced record. While Anodyne would go on to receive much deserved acclaim for its fluid blend of country and rock, Still Feel Gone is just as impressive, if still more abrasive. Anodyne was an extremely consistent record, but the blossoming of Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy as songwriters sounded like a separate affair, whereas here the band sounds like a more interconnected unit. There is no longer a stark contrast between the band’s punk and country influences, but rather a distinctive blending process that has a definite emotional impact. Farrar and Tweedy’s front porch view take on blue collar life, personal/relationship troubles, and general dissatisfaction with modern existence sound better with this warmer, measured approach. The guitars still hit hard at any tempo, but the guitar and vocal melodies are brighter and more nuanced in comparison to No Depression. Mike Heidorn’s drumming impressively transitions between straightforward and aggressive to subtle and understated, depending on the direction of the song. Furthermore, instead of pure punk freak-outs or solely acoustic led numbers, you’ll hear the din of banjo, mandolin, organ, and harmonica making their appearance throughout the record, meshing themselves nicely with the band’s more speckled electric and acoustic attack. It’s the kind of beer soaked music that lends itself to personal contemplation without becoming too self-pitying or campy, all the while delivering the electric charge that one would expect from such a young band.

“Gun” is a stuttering number that hits hard from the beginning but has a decidedly upbeat feel to it. It alternates between its shuffling intro guitar lick with a bounding riff during the verse, and then matches the sensibilities during the chorus to triumphant effect. Tweedy’s vocal communicates a wonderful balance between being numb with heartbreak and the rage of betrayal on the verse and chorus, respectively. “Looking for a Way Out” is an excellent classic rocker, finding sequence in its licks and changes in dynamics to create a song of tremendous melodic and mid-tempo sensibility. A definite Neil Young styled track.

Sandwiched in between the gasoline burning electric charge of “Nothing,” “Fall Down Easy” and “Still Be Around” further showcase the expanded harmonic vocabulary of the band, particularly the ringing acoustic tones of “Still Be Around.” “Watch Me Fall” has a decidedly galloping acoustic romp feel to it, while the organ on display adds a definite “cowboy on the trail” sense of bewilderment. “Punch Drunk” retreats back into more straightforward punk territory, but with wonderfully warm bass tones emanating from Tweedy that gives the song a sense of foreboding that mixes well with Farrar’s rapid fire vocal delivery. Not to retreat into one trick pony territory, Farrar balances the frictional tone of his electric guitar with the layering of more acoustic timbres.

“Postcard” rushes in with electric fury before shockingly transitioning into a pure country section with its jogging acoustic rhythms and rustic steel guitar tones before eventually being hauled back into the pit of the song’s initial onslaught. “D. Boon” has that classic punk crunch that you can sink your teeth into, but just before you think the band will remain in that territory after the two and half minute assault, “True to Life” comes in with its lead harmonica and mad dash rhythms that might leave you wondering if this band is serving two masters if it weren’t for the intentional amalgamation of these separate allegiances. The emotional immediacy of the record is impressively maintained despite the band’s preclusion towards heavy dynamics and their youthful desire to play with beer fueled intensity. Seemingly by design, Still Feel Gone is a record that consciously looks to traditional country music instrumentation to add warmth and tone to songs that heavily rely on the pulse of the band’s electric attack.

“Cold Shoulder” opens up the final quarter of the album with a measured approach that never abandons its stark atmosphere even as it feels like it’s about to break open at any point. Tweedy’s quiet but rumbling bass adds flavor to the subtly clean guitar offerings by Farrar, depicting an agonizing portrait of lost love and betrayal. “Discarded” reveals a rush of guitar chords before Farrar’s banjo pickings interlock with the band’s sonic delivery, setting the stage for a track that relies just as much on triumphant power chord exhibitionism as it does on traditional banjo aesthetics. “If That’s Alright” has the feel of a classic 90’s ballad (with just a little country flare thrown in) as Tweedy sparingly explores his internal disenfranchisement with the complications of romantic relationships.

As a band that is almost more known for its internal troubles and what its members did after their time together, Uncle Tupelo was a promising young band that effectively bridged the gulf between country and rock for a modern audience. With the 90’s displaying a more open door policy thanks to the initial wave of heavy metal meets punk philosophy of the popular Seattle bands, Uncle Tupelo made their contribution by taking that discordant punk attack and marrying it to the virtues of country music. This album will work just as well for your tobacco chewing country boy as it would for your average angst-ridden working class young male. The former will appreciate the heartfelt melodicism of the album, while the latter might take more to its unhinged electric onslaught. But just maybe, the true quality of the album lies in its ability to communicate the sentiments of both groups in a natural, organic fashion. The end result is a wonderful mix of punk fueled aggression and poignant wistfulness that is easy to admire.



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user ratings (13)
Chart.
4.2
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
wabbit
October 23rd 2013



6745 Comments


Super underrated band!!!!

HolidayKirk
Contributing Reviewer
October 24th 2013



1480 Comments


Great review.

Digging: Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe

PunchforPunch
October 24th 2013



5304 Comments


sounds chill, will check.

Digging: Vril - Torus

GnarlyShillelagh
Staff Reviewer
October 24th 2013



5923 Comments


Mama, rock you lil' one slow,
Mama, rock your baby,
Mama, rock you lil' one slow,
Mama, rock your baby,
Mama, rock your baby,
Mama, rock your baby,
Mama, rock you lil' one slow,
Mama, rock your baby,
Mama, rock your baby,
Mama, rock your baby,
Til the King is born in Tupelo
Til the King is born in Tupelo
Til the King is born in Tupelo
Til the King is born in Tupelo
Mama, rock you lil' one slow,
Mama, rock your baby,
Mama, rock you lil' one slow,
Mama, rock your baby,
Til the King is born in Tupelo,
Til the King is born in Tupelo,
Til the King is born in Tupelo,
Til the King is born in Tupelo!

Tupelo-o!
Yeah! Yeah!
And carry the burden of Tupelo,
Tupelo-o!
Yeah, yeah, yeah! Tupelo, Tupelo, Tupelo, Tupelo...
Yeah! The King will walk on Tupelo!
Tupelo-o!
Yeah!
He carried the burden outta Tupelo!
Tupelo-o!
Yeah, Tupelo
You will reap just what you sow!

NodScene23
October 31st 2013



247 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

An interesting, if cryptic response!



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