In 1998, when Golden Smog released their second full-length album, Weird Tales, they were the premier supergroup of the alt-country movement, featuring key members of two of the scene's biggest acts, Wilco and the Jayhawks, as well as roots-friendly guitarist Dan Murphy from Soul Asylum. Eight years later, things are different for everyone involved with the band; alt-country never enjoyed the commercial breakthrough many were expecting, Wilco evolved into a noise-friendly prog-pop band, the Jayhawks got less twangy and more expressively hooky on the road to breaking up, Soul Asylum effectively dropped off the map for close to a decade, and 2006's Another Fine Day audibly reflects the many changes these musicians have gone through. Jeff Tweedy of Wilco is now easily the biggest name in this band, and significantly, he's more stingy with his time; his songwriting credits amount to two songs penned with Jayhawk Gary Louris, and he only appears on six of the disc's 15 tracks. However, the more adventurous musical palate that Wilco has embraced is certainly felt, with a veneer of tastefully applied noise noticeable on numbers such as "Beautiful Mind" and "You Make It Easy." The real creative movers behind the album are former Jayhawks Marc Perlman, Kraig Jarret Johnson, and Gary Louris; they wrote the bulk of the material as well as dominating the instrumental credits, and their work here suggests a slightly more "out there" variation on the expressive pop textures of Sound of Lies and Smile. (Oddly, "Listen Joe," which Louris wrote with Tweedy, more closely resembles the more subtle approach of Rainy Day Music.) In this context, Dan Murphy sounds more like a hired gun than anything else, though he's clearly simpatico with the other players and when he gets a chance to come to the forefront his rock gestures and well-controlled feedback are a welcome part to the band. One of the results of Tweedy's lesser degree of participation on these sessions is Another Fine Day sounds less scattershot and more unified than Golden Smog's earlier efforts, which makes sense since the core of this band had been working together for years, and the results seem less like a genially thrown-together side project than the work of a real band. The only drawback for fans is this Golden Smog doesn't bear much aural resemblance to the band that made Down by the Old Mainstream and Weird Tales; then again, the bands who make up Golden Smog's membership don't sound much like they did back then, either, so that shouldn't come as much of a surprise.
Another Fine Day Review
by Mark Deming