AUK’S Chain Gang: Uncle Tupelo “Anodyne”

The last link in the Chain Gang was Wilco’s delightfully mournful ‘Via Chicago’ with Jeff Tweedy singing at his very best about going home via that city. So, thinking about the next link, I realised I had gone somewhere via Chicago a couple of years ago when to celebrate my 70th birthday, we flew to the Windy City to start our drive south on Route 66. Our next major stop after Chicago was St Louis which as a city was a big disappointment and should be avoided at all costs! We listened to a lot of music on the radio driving along the “Mother Road” mainly on country stations and the most played was Florida Country Line’s ‘Simple’ but that’s not my link in the chain – it’s more New Country than Alt-Country!

To keep the chain going, I’ve chosen a song by St Louis based musician Jay Farrar who was a member of two well-loved Americana/Alt-Country bands, Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt, the former of which included the aforementioned Jeff Tweedy who went on to form Wilco after Uncle Tupelo broke up. Uncle Tupelo only lasted seven years between 1987 and 1994 before Farrar decided to leave but their legacy was four excellent studio albums which are revered by lovers of the genre.

The song I’ve chosen, ‘Anoydyne’, is written by Farrar and it’s the title track of the band’s last album which Paste Magazine rated number one on its list of “Fifty Best Alt-County Albums”. Farrar doesn’t have the greatest voice in the world and there are echoes of Neil Young in his delivery of the song. The lyrics are ambiguous and could be about the end of a love affair or more probably, the break-up of the band. You can read whatever you like into lines such as ‘Tossed it out for me to find, without a word you’re out the door, without a reason anymore’ and ‘No sign of reconciliation, it’s a quarter past the end’. It’s a superb album and it’s a shame it was the band’s last but then again if they hadn’t broken up, we wouldn’t have got to hear Wilco, Son Volt and Farrar’s solo work so maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

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