Quick Review (LP): Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco


Wilco
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Nonesuch; 2002

My Rating: A (88/100)

Best Tracks: "I am trying to break your heart", "Kamera", "War On War", "Jesus, etc.", "I’m the Man Who Loves You", "Poor Places"

Cosmic American Music goes through the looking glass.

TRACK NOTES

  • "I am trying to break your heart"
    • This is what happens when you take a simple folk song, deconstruct it, and throw everything at it including the kitchen sink.
    • "I am an American aquarium drinker/I assassin down the avenue" – I’ve got no idea what that means, but I love the way it sounds.
    • It sounds so simple, but as Tweedy has aged, his brilliance has consisted partly in the simplicity of his songs.
  • "Kamera"
    • The song that is, to me, the definition of "Dad Rock" for the new generation.
    • Love the Steely Dan vibe.
    • Power through restraint. Love the sonic flourishes in this tune.
    • Also, it’s great how the "Tell them I’m lost" bit gets juxtaposed against the basic melody.
  • "Radio Cure"
    • This is THE deconstructed song of the record. If you listen to the original version (I believe it was called "Corduroy Cutoff Girl") it was much poppier.
    • "Distance has no way of making love understandable" is the central theme.
    • I’m not a big fan of this song. A bit of a distraction in my book.
    • Anyway, check out "Corduroy Cutoff Girl." It’s an interesting study in how a track can change in production.
  • "War On War"
    • Hot damn, this is one catchy tune.
    • This is the type of song that you hear for the first time and immediately want to hear more from where it came from. So great.
    • "You’re gonna lose/You have to lose/You have to learn how to die/If you wanna wanna stay alive"
    • It’s an entirely new take on Parsons’ Cosmic American Music.
  • "Jesus, etc."
    • Beautiful.
    • "You were right about the stars/Each one is a setting sun"
    • "Tall buildings shake/Voices escape singing sad sad songs/Tuned to chords/Strung down your cheeks/Bitter melodies/Turning your orbit around"
    • Those lyrics, coming on the heels of 9/11 (actually before), are spine-tingling in a prophetic sort of way. This was the song that year.
    • Easily one of the greatest pop songs ever.
  • "Ashes of American Flags"
    • Again, love the lyrics here.
    • "All my lies are always wishes/I know I would die if I could come back new"
    • That slightly distorted guitar riff that sort of flares in owns this tune and really holds it together.
  • "Heavy Metal Drummer"
    • Poppy, almost to the point of being asinine. Gotta admit, though, I dig it.
    • "I miss the innocence I’ve known/Playing KISS covers/Beautiful and stoned"
    • Bleepity bloopity bleep.
  • "I’m the Man Who Loves You"
    • Another amazingly catchy tune.
    • It feels like Tweedy is riding a wave through this record, lyrically and musically.
    • Bennett did his fair share here, didn’t he?
    • The horns at the end are key.
  • "Pot Kettle Black"
    • This one doesn’t get top billing, but it’s strong enough.
    • Similar feel to "Kamera."
    • Dig the guitar fills on this one.
  • "Poor Places"
    • This one’s a centerpiece. Fairly deconstructed, but comes out on the other end of that process even better than before.
    • Listen to this version against the original (demo) mix.
    • Love the way the noise and the lyrics play against each other.
    • Gorgeous melody here.
    • The ending is brilliant to the point of being glorious.
      • “Reservations”
        • I like this tune, but always felt like it could have been a little more resounding.
        • Then again, perhaps a little more flourish would have been too over the top for this record?
        • That chorus is doggone lovely.
        • What is that distant organ thing at the end?
        • That creaking noise at the end is a nice touch.

ALBUM NOTES

  • Imposing album cover. It just grabs you. Those towers look like giant electrical transistors or something.
  • Noise all over the place in general. This is a fun record for headphones. It sounds very liveable, like they didn’t worry too much about the perfect take.
  • Fabulous concept. The impact of distance upon communication in general and love in particular. This record covers a lot of emotional ground but stays on subject pretty well.
  • I’m not crazy about a few of the tunes (mostly "Radio Cure"), but even that one holds together well with the rest, and is pretty pivotal in terms of concept.
  • This one may have a sensational back story (see the film, it’s a winner), but the great thing is that the music doesn’t rely on any of that.
  • This was the last album with Bennett. While Wilco changed drastically after his departure, they have managed to find their way ahead. He certainly left his mark though. Regardless of how JT and JB felt about each other, they made a great musical team.
  • Ken Coomer got the axe too. Apparently his drumming was too inflexible.
  • You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t download the demos right now.
  • All in all, one thing is for certain. If you are a dude named “Jay”, then stay the hell away from Jeff Tweedy.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Songs (4.5/5)

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