Bandbox Unboxed Vol. 11 – Wilco + Foo Fighters
Prepare your turntable for some heavy rotation bangers vinyl fans, ’cause there’s a killer new record club in town, and you’re gonna want to get your mitts on the band-themed boxes they’re delivering every month. It’s called Bandbox, and it’s the only record club out there that lets you have it your way.
Groove Is In The Bandbox
What’s the big deal, you ask?
To put it simply, the words FULLY CUSTOMIZABLE. That’s right, Team Bandbox is now offering a fully customizable listening experience each and every month, giving you the chance to tailor you box with artists and albums that fit your own personal tastes. And just in case this is the first Bandbox Unboxed piece you’ve clicked on, you should know that Bandbox’s current slate of artists includes the likes of Neil Young, Weezer, Ride, Joy Division/New Order, Johnny Cash, Arctic Monkeys, and more.
If you are among the legions of fans out there excitedly reading my vinyl unboxing every month, you know a big time format change has recently come to Bandbox land, and that customizability is not the key to their coveted box. And now that Team Bandbox is offering a fully customizable format (via a single artist/album of your choosing) and pairing each album with a “Band Dox” zine full of insight, interviews, and behind the scenes pics of your personally selected artist. As such, you’ll now be able to dig their vinyl+zine treasures for a super reasonable $29 a month. Oh, and rumor has it Bandbox is bringing an EXCLUSIVE color pressing of Charly Bliss’ 2017 rocker Guppy to the mix next month, so you might want to get on board sooner rather than later.
And to those who fancy a more deep dive, double album approach fear not, because you can add an additional album to every box for a measly $17. As with the last delivery, I’m continuing to take a slightly different approach to my Bandbox sub by doubling up with releases/zines from two different artists … which makes for a wholly unique Bandbox experience. Here’s a look at what’s inside the latest box.
I’m sincerely hoping Bandbox’s customizable experience will help ease the nerves of folks wary of letting a group of complete strangers “surprise” you with artist/album selections every month. Just for the record, you can still choose to be surprised every month if that’s what you prefer. But if you’re still suspect, you should know Bandbox has already setup an exchange program which allows you to swap out records you don’t want for ones you do, so long as they’re available in the archives. Hell, they’ll even let you integrate your Discogs account to ensure they never even offer you something you already have in your collection.
If you’re really, really wary of surprises, you can tap out of your subscription at any time by pressing “pause” on your sub. It’s unlikely you’ll want to “pause” anything once you’ve signed up and experienced Bandbox for yourself. Just know that your Bandbox experience will only be as amazing as you make it. Understood?
Let The Great World Spin
Now that I’ve given you all the down and dirty details about what Bandbox is bringing every month, let’s take a moment to get into the latest delivery, ’cause it contains a couple of under-appreciated gems from a pair of bands you should be more than a little bit acquainted with.
As mentioned, I’ve been taking a slightly different approach to my Bandbox sub, essentially making a vinyl grab bag for myself every month. As it’s July, and we’re celebrating the birth of America, it seemed only fitting to also celebrate a pair of the nation’s most enduring rock & roll outfits, Wilco and Foo Fighters … both of whom (like America itself) were birthed from other iconic outfits.
First up for July, a largely underrated classic from alt-country poster boys turned experimental indie rock pioneers Wilco.
Wilco – Star Wars (2015)
At the risk of exposing myself as a Wilco fanboy of the first order, I’ll go ahead and confess that I am, in fact, a Wilco fanboy of the first order, and I have been since I first heard the opening bars of “Misunderstood,” from the band’s 1996 sophomore album Being There. Since discovering the band more or less by pure happenstances more than two decades ago, that fanboy journey has been one of singular sonic ingenuity with frontman Jeff Tweedy always seeming to have one eye on the future, while simultaneously keeping a foot in the door of the past.
Regarding the past, it’s worth noting that Tweedy was a founding member of the legendary alt-country outfit Uncle Tupelo, and that Wilco formed amid the tumultuous dissolution of that beloved band. It should also be noted that Wilco’s first album (1995’s better than you remember A.M.) was widely seen as little more than a collection of Uncle Tupelo re-hashes and holdovers. With the release of the adventurous double-album Being There, Tweedy proved the band was ready not just to pivot away from the no depression set, but to wholly re-conceptualize what Wilco could be from one album to the next.
That’s exactly what Wilco has done over the past two decades-plus, exploring seemingly every musical genre under the sun on the nine albums they’ve released since; doing so without ever venturing too far from the punk-infused Americana roots that first put them on the path.
The winkingly-titled 2015 offering Star Wars was the band’s ninth studio album, and finds (after several lineup/label changes in the early ’00s) Tweedy and bandmates in a more stable place then Wilco had ever been. It also found them playing looser, and having a bit more fun than they’d had on previous efforts, hence the album’s idiosyncratic cover art and playfully nonsensical title.
Not surprisingly, Star Wars (in a surprisingly brisk 33 minutes no less) feels like a near flawless synthesis of the band’s ongoing ambition to never revel too long in one node of sound or another. Even in its genre jumping ambition, Star Wars somehow (almost miraculously) never doesn’t sound like a Wilco album, with Tweedy and Co. ripping through raucous instrumental ramblings (opener “EKG”), crunchy glam rock jams (“Random Name Generator), moody post-folk marvels (“Magnetized”), and elliptically fatalistic drone-odes (“You Satellite”) with unimaginable precision and dexterity.
So much so it’s almost easy to write the entire album off as a near schizophrenic experiment in style, particularly as it found Wilco returning to the studio after a four year hiatus. More than just an album of songs from a band getting reacquainted, Star Wars instead stands as a stunning document of a band so maniacally in tune with not only each other, they simply couldn’t help but conjure music that fits snugly within the broad-ranging wheelhouse of their musical ethos, but also something wholly unique within it.
That alone should rank Star Wars among Wilco’s finest records (see also Being There, Summerteeth, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot). Alas, it continues to be one of their most widely, ahem, misunderstood.
Next up, another hard-rocking release from hard rock icons, Foo Fighters.
Foo Fighters – Concrete and Gold (2017)
Before I say anything about Concrete and Gold, you should know two things to be true: 1) I am a child of the ’90s, and 2) that I’ve never been a particular fan of Foo Fighters. That being said, I’ve frequently loved the band’s music videos, and I am actually a great admirer of Dave Grohl as both a musician and a human being. As such, I’ve always sort of given Foo Fighters the benefit of the doubt, and tried to listen to their albums even if their signature blend of pop-tinged metal god mayhem has never really done much for me.
Of course, my introduction to Grohl was (like so many other ’90s kids) as the heavy-hitting drummer of those iconic progenitors of the Seattle sound, Nirvana, so it’s entirely possible I’ve never really been able to see the charismatic, obscenely talented Foo Fighters frontman as anything but. Even as it continues to be true, I freely admit that’s a glaring fault on my own part, because Grohl has more than proven himself as a genuinely gifted songwriter/front man in his own right, and has continued to do so over the course of nine Foo Fighters albums since the bands formation in 1994.
Released in 2017, Concrete and Gold slots in at number nine among Foo Fighters’ sweeping discography. It should come as no surprise it’s also as visceral a rock & roll beast as any Foo album that came before it, running the gamut from heavy metal shredders, to indie-infused noodlers, and shameless power poppy gems, with Grohls full-throated howl dominating the album’s meandering track list every step of the way; even when Concrete and Gold gets all moody and introspective.
As you might’ve guessed from my prior statements, that mix did about as much for me the ninth time around as they did the first, with Concrete and Gold (even in its unabashedly deafening hard-rocking bombast) failed to keep my blood pumping from one track to the next.
I will say, however, that the album does find Grohl and Co. feeling a touch more focused than usual, and a bit more spirited in their approach to song craft. But even in spite of my own general indifference to Foo Fighters’ sound, I still found myself enthralled on a couple of occasions throughout Concrete and Gold, with tracks like “Dirty Water” and “Sunday Rain” finding Grohl and Co. breathing rarified harmonic air, and delivering potent songs that stand tall not just on the album, but also among the Foo Fighters’ vast, hard-rocking oeuvre. In short, Concrete and Gold is a first-rate Foo Fighters albums, and if you’re a devoted fan of their work, you’re likely to find more than a few precious gems in within.
A Cardboard Box For Sharing Music
Bandbox is chiefly concerned with living up to that, “cardboard box for sharing music” definition. As the focus of each month’s box is hardcore customizability, they’ve taken the opportunity to beef up their killer “Band Dox” zines with more pictures, interviews, and insightful artist breakdowns than ever before. Which means readers are set to dive deeper into your chosen artist’s history than ever before.
For Band Dox’s 16th issue, the Bandbox team pull back the curtain on the one and only Wilco. Lets’s have a look.
For its 15th issue, Band Dox got down and dirty with arena rock auteurs Foo Fighters.
Sure, everybody loves a good zine, but this is a vinyl unboxing, so let’s have a look at that sexy wax already, shall we?
Wilco – Star Wars
Before you peel off that plastic wrap, you’ll want to have a look at this little hype sticker, ‘case there’s important info about Star Wars‘s download card including a FULL LIVE SET of bonus material form Wilco. Which is pretty sweet.
Most of you likely know I’m a big fan of gatefold sleeve artwork/photograpy. So you can probably imagine how I feel about this blessed image of Jeff Tweedy and the band in the studio.
Once you get into that sleeve, you’ll find this little lyric booklet with more artwork and a full breakdown of who did what in the studio for the recording Star Wars.
And you’ll find even more killer artwork adorning the album’s inner sleeve.
As promised, there is a download card for the entire album, plus a full live set inside.
As for the vinyl itself, it’s a glossy black beauty worthy of any turntable on planet Earth.
Foo Fighters – Concrete and Gold
Like Star Wars, you’ll want to take a moment and digest the info on the hype sticker for Foo Fighter’s Concrete and Gold as well, if only so you confirm there’s some MP3 madness included with this release as well.
Concrete and Gold doesn’t waste its gatefold either, with Dave Grohl and the boys putting their profiles front and center, and sandwiched between a full lyrics breakdown of the album to boot.
And yes, there is indeed a download card in there for those of you who still like to have your music fully mobile.
As for the records, well, there’s a short stock of sonic goodness inside pressed on no bullshit black wax.
Battle of the Bandbox
Look, there’s potential for two new records in every single Bandbox. While it’s truly marvelous that the B-box team is giving you the chance to double down on the wax every month, subscribers are certain to find themselves in the unique position of choosing a favorite between the pair. This can, understandably be a trying experience for even the savviest of music lovers, because there really aren’t a lot of bad records in the Bandbox vaults these days.
This month was a little easier than most for me, mostly because Wilco is one of my all-time favorite bands. I also happen to think Star Wars is one of the group’s more egregiously underrated releases – one that likely suffered a bit due to its frivolously idiosyncratic title. Whatever the case, it’s with great pleasure that I ask you all to raise a glass to Star Wars, a genuinely overlooked gem from Wilco, who may well be the last of the great American rock & roll bands.
It’s the Bandbox You Want, And The Bandbox You Need
Look, the so-called “vinyl boom” is not gonna fade away anytime soon. If you’re one of the many who have found themselves giddily wrapped up in the madness, you already aware there are a million and one different options for getting your hands on some sweet, sweet wax. While I’d always encourage you to shop first at your local record store, I also understand that subscription vinyl clubs are an excellent way to help fill in/round out your growing collection.
If you’re looking to round out that collection a little sooner than later, a vinyl club that’s down to send you one, or even two worthy records every month is a pretty good way to do it. With Bandbox delivering high-quality pressings of albums by popular artists, they’re giving you a chance to both grow your collection with lust-worthy popular discs and discover deep dive delights you might previously have overlooked. That savvy mix of quality and variety should make it easy for diehard vinyl fans and newbs alike to board the Bandbox bandwagon. Make sure you get on board today!