The new DVD edition of the acclaimed documentary “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” shows us the band Wilco soldiering through the making of their fourth album “Yankee Foxtrot Hotel.” As the yearlong sessions proceed, it becomes more and more apparent that the tension is mounting between bandleader, Jeff Tweedy, and guitarist/keyboardist, Jay Bennett. Ultimately, Bennett is ousted amidst the general feeling that the rest of his band mates didn’t much care for him either.
And this is just part of the drama that unfolds in the extremely well made Sam Jones film. Simultaneous to all the inner band turmoil is the group’s realization that their label, Reprise Records, are not quite the benevolent entity that they thought. When the band delivers the finished “Yankee Foxtrot Hotel,” Reprise execs balk at the experimental feel of the recording and request that the band rework the record. Tweedy refuses and the band finds themselves free from the clutches of corporate greed, but still in a quandary because the label owns their just-completed album.
With it’s stark black-and-white cinematography, and the many moments of friction and transcendent musical interludes, the film evokes the raw, candid energy of D.A. Pennebaker’s “Don’t Look Back,” with the backdrop of just how much corporate greed in the record industry has effectively stifled creativity for bands who are being marketed to a mass audience. This film has none of the cheesy “rockumentary” feel younger fans might be used to from MTV or VH-1 productions. Clearly, Jones grasped the best elements of Pennebaker and the Maysles Brothers (Gimme Shelter) cinematic styles.
For Wilco fanatics, the DVD extras are a real treat: commentary from Jones and the band, the original theatrical trailer, as well as a bonus disc featuring seventy-plus minutes of live performances, rehearsals and unreleased songs. Plus, David Fricke’s incisive writing in the enclosed booklet makes for a very satisfying package.