I just can’t make up my mind about Wilco. They’re one of those bands I know I’m supposed to like, and most of my friends like them. But when I listen, I find that I like only one out of every four or five songs. Sadly, I just don’t think I’m hip enough to like them.
“Hate It Here” is one of Wilco’s songs that I like — no, love. Ever since I heard it on “Saturday Night Live” a few weeks ago, it’s haunted me — a soulful song with a Steve Winwood vibe.
It’s slow, with a keyboard playing throughout the song. The song is in A, and at first, it’s a simple I – IV chord progression. But during the second line of the verses, Jeff Tweedy changes it up, moving from an A to a diminished A chord — what Beatle George Harrison called “the naughty chord.” That one chord change tears at you, it’s so beautiful and aching.
The lyrics tell of loneliness in the most mundane, day-to-day way, as Jeff Tweedy first talks of chores around the house that he needs to do, and then finally gets to the point of wanting his love to come home:
What am I gonna do when I run out of lawn to mow?
What am I gonna do if you never come home?
Tell me, oh, what am I gonna do?
I hate it here
When you’re gone
The bridge is somewhat distracting and abrupt, with a searing guitar taking over a melody as yet unheard. But that makes the return to A even more welcoming, as Tweedy moves back to the verses and the calm, cool keyboards.
SNL repeated the episode this past week, and I stayed up just to watch Wilco and “Hate It Here” again. Maybe I’ll give them another try.