Rock & Roll Books
The Wilco Bookedited by Dan Nadel and Peter Buchanan-Smith
PictureBox Inc., 160 pp., $29.95
You won't find a Henry Miller essay in Avril Lavigne's book. Part scrapbook, pseudo-album, and graphic designer's wet dream, The Wilco Book is three parts indie pretension. Photographs of the band, writings by Tweedy et al., essays by Miller and Rick Moody, various paintings, and 12 unreleased tracks from the session for A Ghost Is Born the Book's certainly a cerebral amalgam of self-importance. But coffeetable gloss it isn't. It's organic fine print; "We try to avoid bright light," reads one piece of microfont. Wilco is a group of gremlin rock & rollers: relentless yet frustrated, honest but private. Their lyricist is a frontman with migraines. The Wilco Book, with its scattered pictures and music, is just so, well ... Wilco. Wilco is experimental flux. "Maimed by rock and roll," they maim it back across media lines. Nevertheless, fans will buy this book for the music, and there are some gems here among the jam: the chamber-music grace-note give-and-take between the piano and guitar on "Diamond Claw"; and "Hummingbird (Soma)," a lo-fi, soft heartbeat alternative to the poppier version interrupting A Ghost Is Born. Although The Wilco Book is mostly steroid-fed liner notes and pretty geometry, you do learn about songwriting. You learn how Tweedy still can't listen to "At Least That's What You Said" without crying. Miller says once an artist is satisfied, he cannot create. Then he's left "to piss the time away enjoyably." People who write love songs can't be satisfied by definition.