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Wilco – A Ghost is Born

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It is hard to follow up a masterpiece but that is what Jeff Tweedy and company did when the showed the world Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in 2002. YHF was hailed by critics and put on the top of the best of lists at the end of the year. But that is all hype by pious music journalists and psuedo intellectuals who spend too much time stroking their egos and reading MOJO.

Wilco is Jeff Tweedy’s band. He is Wilco. That is why I was eager to wrap my ears around the new release A Ghost is Born. I found that this album gets better with repeated listens but at times Tweedy seems to be pushing the sonic experimentation too far. I am talking about the migraine induced Less Than You Think. The white noise and constant hum will have you thinking that you are at a gigantic construction site with metal screeching dozers and grinding cement trucks. Why? Wilco needs to stick to what they do best. The lush harmonies and Beatlesque music of Summerteeth are gone in favor of long and drawn out guitar solos. The formula seems to work on great songs like Hummingbird and Spiders (Kidsmoke), and all in all this is another Wilco classic. I would put it behind their opus Summerteeth and the distant blip filled Yankee Hotel Foxtrot but its good enough in its own right.

If you take away the awful Less Than You Think then it could be perfect. Wilco remains one of the greatest American bands and for that I can forgive them for one bum track.

Written by Ben Matulich for Buzzgrinder

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About Seth Werkheiser

  • Honestly, I think the departure of Jay really took Wilco down a few notches. While it might be Jeff’s band, Jay brought in a number of different influences and a chemistry that really made YHF such a monumental record.

  • matulich

    I agree, it seems that Tweedy can’t get along with guys named Jay.

  • Actually, it’s really easy to see what’s going on.

    Listen to Jay Farrar’s and Jay Bennett’s solo stuff. IMHO, it’s not that impressive. It’s depressing and moddy, but it’s also that one piece that I think is missing from Wilco’s current release.

    I have no idea why Jeff keeps parting with talented writers…honestly, he and the two Jay’s should just put their crap aside and lock themselves in a studio for six months and come out with the next groundbreaking album.

    BTW, happy dad moment. When walking past my 12 yr old daughter room a few months ago…singing along…

    I am an American Aquarium Drinker…

  • The Theory

    ehhh… I agree about the white noise of less than you think. but the actual song before it is fantastic.

  • dave

    As members of Uncle Tupelo, Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy could be likened to a roots-rock (or ALT-country) Lennon-McCartney songwriting team. Their individual vertical (Tweedy) and horizontal (Farrar) talents complimented each other and allowed for some pretty amazing and original material. Fast forward to the Summerteeth-era Jay Bennett/Tweedy songwriting team and you get a similar mix. This time, though, Tweedy is taking the Lennon/horizontal and his counterpart Jay is doing it McCartney/vertical. Now the new album lacks that strong collaboration between a pair of composers, but is still full of both the vertical (I’m a Wheel, Handshake Drugs) and the horizontal (Hummingbird, Theologians). So why does anyone wonder why Jeff Tweedy goes through talented bandmates as often as he does? The answer is simple: who needs a Lennon or McCartney if he has them both inside his very own head?

  • scott

    i like to call a ghost is born “the ego record”, as it seems that is what it is…tweedy making sure he has control again. he certainly misses jay bennett, but he would never admit it. still, to show how great he truly is, the album–third or fourth on the wilco list–is better than 99% of what is out there. the true wilco classic? being there. it is timeless, and easily outstraps the somewhat shallow moods of summerteeth. relatively speaking, of course.