One Star Hotel
Good Morning, West Gordon

Stereo Field

’m telling ya, it’s the damnedest thing. Ever since that radioactive garden slug I found behind the shed bit me I’ve been able to see alternate futures. It’s a blessing and a curse. You see, there are an infinite number of possible futures for every act that we commit, so I can’t really “see” the future in the Tireseusian Greek myth sense. But, I’m terrible with responsibility anyway, so it’s just as well I’m not saddled with saving some schmuck from walking into traffic or burning his tongue on hot soup.

So the other day I have one of my special moments. I was listening to A.M. and disc one of Being There when it comes over me. I start sweating like a whore in church, turn beet red and start flapping around on the floor like a chicken after you lop of its head. Then the visions come. They step through curtains of red velvet that part on a thousand mechanically hinged creases. Well, guess who walks through those funny curtains this time? Yeah, that’s right, Jeff Tweedy. Jeff fuckin’ Tweedy! I shit you not.

Well these visions unfold in front of me like a play put on by a traveling band of vagabond gypsies. I watch Tweedy’s life post Uncle Tupelo. I see him struggling to put together Wilco’s first album, racked by doubts about whether or not he’s up to the task of meeting the expectations potential has foisted upon him. Here’s where it gets weird. In fast forward time I see Wilco release A.M. but instead of Mr. Tweedy taking all that acid with Jay Bennett and, later, hooking up with Jim O’Rourke to talk about big “A” art, and how to make really cool coffee table books; he starts writing songs on the piano, spends time with reed and pipe organs, still falls in love with the synthesizer but in a melodic heartland sort of way.

Lo and behold, instead of handing the public Summer Teeth my otherworldly vision gives me something called Good Morning, West Gordon. Next thing I know, Wilco isn’t called Wilco anymore. They’re going by One Star Hotel. They’ve moved to Pennsylvania, holed up with Darren Schlappich, and are playing co-bills with Frog Holler. It’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen.

But the odd thing is, I like this One Star Hotel. I love the alternate path, which in my experience with these spells is really not a derivative rehashing of “our” reality at all but a legitimate extension of a different course of action. I mean if One Star Hotel really exists somewhere outside of my condo complex, people would like them. A lot. Folks might point the Wilco finger at them, but they would be charmed by the sweet Beach Boy like harmonies, the California country melodies accented by thick electric piano, and the tendency towards a fat power chord.

While I was channeling the spirits of alternate futures I heard a song called “Falling Down,” and even through my haze of psychically induced dementia I knew that this was a homerun. I was buoyed by the melodic spaciousness of the chorus, the subtle ring of the string section that accented the fadeout. There was also the album opener “Frustrated And Free,” filling my head with harmonies and chiming guitars that would make The Byrds proud.

Of course some people would be put off by One Star Hotel’s moments of over indulgence like “Two And Four.” Sometimes pouring all the good things that you do into one song sinks it under its own weight.

For each misstep that One Star Hotel makes, they recover with songs like the sweet, slow burner “Kings” or the synthesizer accented “Thunderhead,” a song that may not be the brother of Wilco’s “I’m Always in Love” but is certainly no farther removed than cousin.

As I started to come to, the fog of my psychic episode lifting slowly, I found myself sprawled on the cement floor of my garage, my trusted dog Herbert licking my unshaven cheek. Of course, I know that there’s little I can do with these visions. The reality we live in is irrevocable. But as I lay in the oil drippings of my Dodge Powerwagon I couldn’t help but wonder what the world would be like with a band like One Star Hotel out there spreading the gospel of their updated alt-country: a sound as thick with keyboards and synths as with Americana harmonies and ringing guitars.

Reviewed by: Peter Funk

Reviewed on: 2005-01-18

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