Review of I Am Trying To Break Your Heart directed by Sam Jones
This is a 2002 documentary about a musical group I had never hear of. The premise is that the director wanted to film the band as they worked on their upcoming album. I've seen similar films like this. Most notably is Metallica's Some Kind Of Monster.As in the Metallica film, the group's dynamics are interrupted and there are plenty of creative differences. In this film, the discord leads to the group being dropped by their label.
After watching this film I can't say I came away as a new fan of Wilco. Their music permeates the 92 minutes of the film, but in all honesty in all that time I did not hear a single tune that had even the slightest hint of a catchy hook or melody. Every song sounded the same, and the lyrics from lead singer and writer Jeff Tweedy were rendered indecipherable by his delivery. Now that I've offended all of you Wilco fans, I can say that the behind the scenes footage of the band trying to finish this album was interesting. While the film didn't delve into the creative process as much as I would have liked, there definitely were some interesting parallels between the music business and the publishing business as it exists today.
The creative differences center around the band's main creative force Jeff Tweedy and musician Jay Bennett. I liked Jay and felt he had a lot more potential than Jeff. Before writing this post I Googled Jay's name. I'll tell you what I discovered in a minute.
When the band finally finishes the album and delivers it to Reprise records, the album is not well received. The executives at the record label think that changes are needed. Many writers have experienced the same kind of response from their publisher or editor. Jeff refuses to make changes. You have to admire him for standing his ground. But a lot of times a final product benefits from varying viewpoints. I am a strong believer in collaboration. As a writer, I take in as much feedback as possible. I don't always agree, but I'm smart enough to listen. From what I've heard from the album they should have made the changes. I will say that the band never got any specific information on what changes the executives thought were necessary. So you can't argue with their artistic choice. In the end, the label released the band from their contract.
In an unusual twist, however, the label let the band keep the rights to the album, even though they funded the recording of the album. That shows you how little they thought of the end product. The remainder of the film covers the eight month search for a new label. The band did do some streaming of the album on their web site and this created interest. I'm sure the controversy and this film helped as well.
The film ends with the group finding a new label and the album going on to critical success. Whether or not the album received financial success I can't say. A visit to Amazon showed over 600 reviews with half being five star and the other half broken fairly evenly between four stars to one star. A number of people agreed with me about the album's merit. More disagreed. So score one for Wilco.
Now about Jay Bennett. A Google search turned up news of his premature death early this year from an overdose of pain killers. A visit to the Wilco web site shows that the band appears to be doing well. I wasn't able to find out much about what jay had been up to since leaving Wilco.
There is plenty to like about this film even if you're not a Wilco fan. If you are a fan, then definitely check this one out.