15 February 2012

#100: Wilco - Via Chicago

Wilco - Via Chicago
from Summerteeth, 1999

The last few tracks added to my top 100 list were amazingly difficult but the choice ultimately came down to what I thought was more important for this project: the songs I've loved longer or the songs I love more now. I picked the former, though I can't really say way. All I know is that if I had made this list 9 years ago, Via Chicago would be in the top 20, and that was good enough for me to make sure it made it in.

I don't care what it's actually about; the opening lines

I dreamed about killing you again last night
And it felt alright to me
Dying on the banks of Embarcadero skies
I sat and watched you bleed

and the wikipedia article can lead to an interpretation of a mangle relationship. For me, this is a song about homesickness, occupying the same emotional place as I'll Be Home for Christmas but without being a crappy song about Christmas.

And literally: I grew up out west and my family still lived there when I moved to the midwest for college and stayed for nearly a decade, living between 3 and 5 hours from Chicago. Nearly every trip back to the family involved a connecting flight through O'Hare. But the song invokes more the return trip, the sense of loss of something good. Every leaving -- to go back to the place without family, the place that for better or worse, was my real home -- came with a dose of sadness and thinking about the roads not taken. The hardest choices are not between good and evil or bad and worse but between good and good.

In that way, it's also cleanly associated in my mind with the process of growing up or the even more ineffable realization that we're responsible for our decisions and their consequences.

I printed my name on the back of a leaf
And I watched it float away
The hope I had in a notebook full of white dry pages
Was all I tried to save

Via Chicago has this melancholy and slight confusion to it. The prominent minor keys do the heavy work, but it's all the little touches, too. The short piano break starting at about 2:55. The feedback present throughout the song, providing an almost unnoticed sense of unease, which becomes more and more pronounced towards the end of the song, until it threatens to derail everything a minute early. But then everything drops and it's just an acoustic guitar and Tweedy singing, "I'm coming home. I'm coming hone."


1 comment:

BrandonK said...

Nicely started, my man. I'm on the road tomorrow, but I'll try to post in the evening.