The only one

Wilco's Jeff Tweedy spent years trying to prove he was better than everyone thought. Now, with Summer Teeth, nothing's ever gonna get in his way again.

In the end, the band that appeared on A.M. looked very much like the one on Anodyne--without Farrar. And the music sounded like Tweedy's songs from that record; now, he admits that he followed too closely in someone else's footsteps when making A.M. But if nothing else, Tweedy says of making the record, at least he could do what he wanted without someone else shooting him a nasty look. Still, Tweedy couldn't help but notice that Farrar's band Son Volt still got the better reviews when Trace debuted around the same time as A.M. He had grown tired and cold from standing in Farrar's shadow for so long.

That's how Being There, and now Summer Teeth, happened: Tweedy was going to prove he wasn't Jay Farrar's second anything--not his collaborator, not his whipping boy. And somewhere along the way, Farrar stopped dead in his tracks and watched Tweedy speed past him: Son Volt kept making the same record--the same song--while Wilco became something far bigger than a mere echo of a band no one much remembers anyway.

"In the span of eight years or so," he says, "the Beatles went from 'She Loves You' to 'Across the Universe.' That's staggering. But it's really not that complex. Think about how you were when you were in high school compared to how you are now. I like that. I think that's the only way to live and the only way to create and be happy creating and be happy living--or even try to be happy. And that isn't really even the goal. Happiness just kind of happens to you. But I think it only happens to you because you leave yourself undefined."

After the show at the House of Blues, Jeff Tweedy will return to his dressing room and find himself surrounded by radio execs who will tell him the new record is "hot," a compliment band members insist they don't understand. He will be amiable, signing autographs and offering his mother's homemade cookies to well-wishers. Whether or not he sold the record to these radio people is hardly his concern. There's so much more going on in his head than getting on playlists next to tomorrow's flavor-of. And in the end, Summer Teeth is too good for radio--so much bigger than the medium.

At some point during the interview, even Tweedy had to admit that trying to prove you're better than your old partner isn't the healthiest of reasons to make music. But he has to be content now. Jay Farrar will always sound like Jay Farrar. Wilco, right now, sounds like endless possibilities. The night is young.

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