"Dad rock" is not a friendly term; it implies that any male musician who has participated in the act of procreation -- or who has fans that are dads -- is on a short road to irrelevance, paved with boring albums. Being labeled “dad rock” in the current musical landscape is like wearing Birkenstocks with socks: it instantly makes one uncool.
Jeff Tweedy remembers the first time he saw the term used to describe his band, Wilco. The wry dismissal came in a review of the band’s 2007 album Sky Blue Sky, and he was not impressed. “It was particularly unflattering… ouch,” he said later.
In a move destined to infuriate the dad-rock naysayers, Tweedy, a father, has gone and formed a band with his own son, Spencer, called Tweedy. In an effort to dispel the negativity surrounding the term “dad rock,” we’ve put together a list of Jeff Tweedy’s career highlights, stand-out moments and general proof of his unrelenting hustle since -- and in spite of -- becoming a dad.
1. He has amazing chemistry with comedian Fred Armisen. In the documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, he nails the character of a money-hungry, calculating showman with his spot-on deadpan.
2. He consistently lets his band members take the spotlight, like Nels Cline’s spiraling, sprawling guitar solo on Sky Blue Sky’s “Impossible Germany” and Glenn Kotche’s unhinged drumming on “Via Chicago.”
3. Tweedy recently finished Pops Staples’ posthumous album Don’t Lose This with his frequent collaborator Mavis Staples. Full of warmth and polished to a shine, it shows off his ear as a producer.
4. Wilco surprised the crowd at their own summer festival, Solid Sound, with an entire set of covers, proving that you can indeed teach an old dad new tricks.
5. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Wilco’s fourth album is their crown jewel, brilliantly balancing sonic experimentation with sunny pop and nuanced folk-rock. Tweedy was already a father two times over when it was recorded.
6. Tweedy (the band) got Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman to direct their hilarious video for “Low Key,” which stars, among others, comedian John Hodges, Conan O’Brien, Chance the Rapper and record producer Steve Albini.
7. “Theologians,” from Wilco’s 2004 LP A Ghost is Born, packs an epic statement of defiance: “No one’s ever gonna take my life from me” Tweedy howls in the song’s climactic bridge, over a thundering guitar riff and crashing cymbals.
8. Ever searching, Tweedy constantly pushes himself to explore new musical territory, like on The Whole Love’s opening track, the electronic-infused and genre-bending “Art of Almost.”
9. He can take half the credit for the genetic makeup of his son Spencer -- a deft drummer and terrific musician in his own right.
10. Wilco were vocal advocates of Occupy Wall Street. As Tweedy put it on the band’s website, "Occupy Wall Street is the best example of democracy in action we've seen around here in a long time… History shows pretty consistently that no positive change comes from people sitting on their asses."
11. Even as he approaches age 50, he consistently plays 30-song sets that delve deep into his ever-growing catalog.
12. Finally, more than a decade since their first collaboration, he still has great chemistry with Fred Armisen. He recently killed it on Portlandia, playing a disingenuous folk singer struggling to find something to sing about.
All in all, a quarter-century into his career, Jeff Tweedy hasn’t lost the compulsion to keep pushing forward, and to have fun along the way; even as a dad, he’s still just a kid. Catch Tweedy in action at the Fillmore on March 17 and 18.