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[MUSIC]

Jeff Tweedy puts Wilco back on course

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Illustration: Chris Morris

IF YOU GO

Who: Wilco

When: 9 tonight

Where: The Joint at the Hard Rock

Tickets: $31; ticketmaster.com

Audio Clip

Wilco's Jeff Tweedy talks about the documentary “Ashes of American Flags” and the song “Country Disappeared.”

Audio Clip

Tweedy talks about the change in recording albums and how he still wants to make records.

Audio Clip

Tweedy talks about the band having more freedom.

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You probably know Wilco as that hot “alt-country” band that got into a blistering scrap with its record company back in the early part of this century.

The band nearly imploded recording “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” but the theatrics were so good they made a movie about it (“I am Trying to Break Your Heart”). Spoiler: Wilco won, released the record on its own and earned much-deserved praise for producing a modern masterwork. “Yankee” hardly lived up to the “unlistenable” rumors though. It was just a great pop record with true country grit, a digital blip here, a guitar squeal there.

And Jeff Tweedy was the man at the helm.

His tales of longing, heartbreak and heavy metal drummers place him in the canon of great American songwriters. A few lineup changes, a stint in rehab and fatherhood shaped the next few records, bringing us to, well, something the band calls “Wilco (the album).” It’s easily the best record Tweedy and Co. have produced since “Yankee,” a start-to-finish gem that, as the title implies, showcases a band that’s comfortable in its own skin.

The album drops June 30 and Wilco will preview some of it tonight when the band plays the new Joint. Tweedy told us it will be one of the greatest Wilco shows ever. Tongue in cheek? We don’t know. But we’re saying it’s worth the chance. As Tweedy says on the album opener, “Wilco (will) love you, baby.”

The title of the new Wilco documentary is “Ashes of American Flags,” and there’s a song on the new record called “Country Disappeared.” Seems to be a theme there.

I don’t have any political commentary to make. They’re just images to me. It’s always a part of the culture that people feel like some part of it, existent when they were younger, is missing when they’re older — and maybe it’s more their youth than anything.

Well, one thing that’s fading is record stores and recording albums in general.

I see things changing that I can mourn. I worked in indie record stores when I grew up. I want them to stick around and thrive, but most of the time there’s nothing you can do about change. I don’t mean to sound defeatist, but it’s probably better to spend your energy changing yourself than fighting against something that is a lot bigger than you. That’s not a very optimistic answer, I suppose.

You’ve been through a lot since “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.”

My 9-year old son was 1 when that record was made. I’ve gone through rehab, the lineup has changed. I’ve managed to grow up in a way I never thought I’d be able to grow up, in a world that seems to have little value for growing up. I’m happy about that.

As a songwriter, you’ve talked about your “obsessive compulsive” desire for order before. If Wilco were a political system, what would it be?

Oh, I’ve been able to manage some of my anxieties much better. As a band, it’s a benign dictatorship at its worst and maybe a full-on Scandinavian social democracy at its best.

The band sounds great, more natural.

I think things have settled down into a really cohesive unit, a group of people that have an undeniable affection for each other. That alone is something that’s hard to come by in this business, that sense of appreciation. I think Wilco has grown into a band that’s become at peace with being Wilco. The bottom line is it’s a lot less self-conscious of an existence than times in the past.

How about you personally?

I’ve never felt better. I’m healthier than I have ever been in my life. I go out and hike and run everywhere we go. Physically and mentally, I’m a rock machine.

I bet quitting smoking helps. Any tips?

You have kids?

No.

Well, you gotta get a kid and make ’em a promise and that will help. You could pick a kid off the street, maybe. And make a promise to him that you are going to take care of yourself.

That might involve incarceration.

Yeah, you might want to rethink that one. Sorry. Don’t do it at the library.

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Michael Mishak

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