By Aaron Stein
Behold the side-project in all its glory! A chance for sidemen to grab some of the limelight for once or a chance for frontmen to prove their egos right by doing it with a completely different cast of characters or just a chance to have some fun. Could it also be a chance for great music to be made? Loose Fur attempts to answer that question with the surprisingly ass-kicking release of Born Again in the USA. Loose Fur is Jeff Tweedy and Glenn Kotche of Wilco and their good friend Jim O’Rourke, who seems to be a part of a whole bunch of things these days.
At times, Born Again might start to feel like a bunch of Ghost Is Born throwaways and B-sides, but the kinds of songs that these guys might discard from one pile might turn into a healthy bit of music in its own right. That’s definitely at work here. The feel is distinctly 1960’s with the opening track “Hey Chicken” featuring rangy, distorted guitars that just flat out rock. “The Ruling Class” follows with a fun, Donovanesqueness while featuring some well-intentioned summer-of-love type sociopolitical digs at “the man.” There are moments of full-throttled rock and roll and others of full-fledged beauty, and when it gets down to it, nothing here feels like it would be thrown away by anyone in any situation. On highlight tracks like “An Ecumenical Matter,” a short, off-beat, near-jammy instrumental, and “Wreckroom,” over 8 and a half minutes of powerhouse songwriting, it all comes together in musical bliss – each note and each lyric is worth poring over. Only at the outro of “Wreckroom” does the music devolve into the kind of experimental “noise” you might expect, but even there it maintains its melodic edge. The songs are credited to the band in its entirety with lyric credits splitting down the middle for O’Rourke and Tweedy, each of whom proves to be in exceptional form on their second album together. O’Rourke takes possibly the most entertaining look at the Ten Commandments since Charlton Heston on “Thou Shalt Wilt.” Throw in a healthy mix of guitars, bass, drums, and the occasional foray on the vibraphone from an indispensable Kotche, all mixed and overdubbed masterfully, and you have an early must-have to keep you warm this winter.
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