Appointment Viewing: Wilco, “Random Name Generator”

This is how you Rock with distinction in 2016. This performance from last Thursday’s The Late Show shows you how to do it up right. There’s nothing earth-shattering going on here. I’m not going to call this brilliance or anything like that. “Random Name Generator” is not even a great song. But it is a really good song, and this performance demonstrates the kind of high-level consistency that you can expect from Wilco, in my opinion America’s greatest band today.

The song begins old-school, with an original 3-part guitar hook that draws you into the song right off the top. Lead singer Jeff Tweedy low-keys the vocals, and after each verse, juicy new elements are added to the guitar hook, and by the end you’ve got three guitars generating some pretty good heat before getting tucked away for the finish.

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That’s Wilco in a nutshell — moments of abandon tucked between layers of carefully constructed songcraft in a rock and roll panini. Every element is so measured and considered. This video was nicely shot, and you get a sense of what each member is doing. The drum-mounted camera really gives you some great shots of drummer Glenn Kotche’s incredible dynamic precision.

Tweedy’s low-key vocal acts as a counterpoint to the tension in the lyric, which seems to pit the cold anonymity of our digital existence up against the human warmth of our temporal reality. “Random name, random name generator” has a computerized rhythm to it, and Tweedy milks it for all it’s worth, bringing form and content nicely together. Pretty clever stuff, even if the lyric typically leans more towards the obscure:

Com’on listen to the weed whistle way
I belong to the stars in the day
I ran away eternal instigator
I was cold
I remember the Milky Way why

I belong to the stars in the sky
Random name generator (x4)

You don’t know me cold as night
Somebody hold me in the diamond light
Narrator Mr. narrator
I want to name every new born child
A miracle only ever grows wild
Random name generator

I kind of like it when I make you cry
A miracle every once in a while
Random name random name generator
I change my name every once in a while
A miracle every once in a while
I create
I am the flame, a flame creator Random name generator

Com’on cuff me to the weed whistle whine

If I miss your breeze will you miss mine
I kind of like it when I make you cry
A miracle every once in a while
Com’on cuff me to the weed whistle whine

I think I miss my family fine


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2 comments to “Appointment Viewing: Wilco, “Random Name Generator””
  1. I think it has something to do with the nature of celebrity, but trying to decode Jeff Tweedy is always a bit of a crapshoot.

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