Weekend DVD – I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

WilcoSome people really strike it lucky; commercial director Sam Jones thought he was simply going to make a film about the group Wilco, as they went about making their fourth album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The day before Jones started filming, he was told the group had dismissed their drummer Ken Coomer. A good start then. I Am Trying To Break Your Heart would go onto chart the group make an album through creative differences and show the strained releationship between a band and a record label.

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart (the title of a song the group record for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot) actually starts quite positively; the band are in high spirits, new drummer Glen Kotche is fitting in well and the ideas are flowing. The band lay down some tracks, but get bogged down in mixing disputes, arguing over sounds as specific as the way a single drum sounds. Whilst this is happening, singer/songwriter Jeff Tweedy, decided to go on a solo acoustic tour, taking comedian Fred Armisen (SNL regular and “Tito” in Anchorman) as his warm-up act. When Tweedy returns, the band make the desicion to fire guitarist/songwriter/engineer Jay Bennet from the group and allow Jim O’Rourke to mix the record. And this is where the problems begin. Up until now the only drama has been your usual creative differences between band members (and all conducted with a lot of civility), but after handing in to their Warner-owned record label, Reprise, the band hear nothing for two weeks.

Not a good sign. Eventually the label gets in touch and requests some changes to the album. The band refuse, and this is what makes I Am Trying To Break Your Heart such a good film; often we hear (or maybe just believe) that bands have to comprimise their vision whilst on a major label. Here is it, happening right on screen, the battle between art and commerce. In the end, the band are released from their contract with the finished album. They then sign to another Warner-owned label, Nonesuch and the album is realeased to massive critical acclaim and becomes the band’s biggest seller.

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart has the same problem most rock films have, in that it will appeal to fans of the band most of all, and speaking as one, it is great to see the band work on some of the songs from YHF from acoustic demos to the finished article. But the film does deal with larger issues, especially as the band decide to stream YHF from their website after being dropped from Reprise. In the end, Wilco come out winners; bloodied and unbowed. The film is shot in a stark, but soft black and white and the camera work is never dull, especially during the live sequences. The DVD itself comes with a pretty weighty and informative booklet, a dry but interesting commentary track from Sam Jones and a bonus disc with about 70 minutes of extra live footage.

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart clip (audio is a bit glitchy):

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  1. I woke up the other day and for no reason whatsoever felt a sudden urge to listen to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot for the first time in ages, and now I can’t stop playing it over and over again!

    I’ve been in love with Wilco ever since Q put one of the Being There tracks on a cover CD about ten years ago. For some reason I still haven’t seen this film though. I feel a trip to HMV coming on…

  2. I don’t actually think it’s out on Region 2 at all, I had to go to an indie record store that had plenty of imported DVDs. Maybe try PlayUSA.com as well.




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