Quick Review (LP): A Ghost Is Born by Wilco

A Ghost Is Born
Nonesuch; 2004

My Rating: B- (64/100)

Best Tracks: "Hell Is Chrome", "Spiders (Kidsmoke)", "Muzzle of Bees", "Wishful Thinking", "Company In My Back", "The Late Greats"

Wilco’s "modern art" record.


"At Least That’s What You Said"

  • A lot of restraint here.
  • Very Neil Young-ish feel.
  • Tweedy’s guitar solo is a "musical transcription" of a panic attack.
  • Overall, nice switch from soft and delicate to full out classic rock assault.

"Hell Is Chrome"

  • "When the devil came/He was not red/He was chrome and he said/’Come with me’"
  • Love the lyrics on this one.
  • Again, a little restraint goes a pretty long way here.

"Spiders (Kidsmoke)"

  • As much as I like this track, it’s always hard not to think "OK, let’s just go ahead and hurry up that part where they rock out."
  • Around 6 minutes it starts to get really great. The lyrics get interesting, the guitars get aggressive, and stuff starts coming in from all over the place.

”Muzzle of Bees”

  • This is one of the best on the album.
  • The way the track builds – that’s great.
  • It’s really very lovely and subdued.


  • Great lyrics on this one.
  • But…the way the song ends bugs me a bit.
  • Overall, it’s a changeup for the band, and mostly a success.
  • But…not a resounding one.

”Handshake Drugs”

  • I’ve always preferred the version on the More Like The Moon EP. This one is too refined or something.
  • Actually, the live version on KT is better as well. Nels’ guitar work is spot on there.
  • Still, great song pretty much any way you slice it.

"Wishful Thinking"

  • Another great. This one is really about the musical atmosphere.
  • Great drum work by Kotche.

”Company In My Back”

  • It’s funny, I listen to a lot of these songs now and they sound a bit empty without Nels’ crazy guitar fills.
  • This one’s good, and it got better in later live performances.

”I’m A Wheel”

  • Sort of stupid.
  • I’m sure it’s really clever on some level I don’t understand.


  • This is an interesting track. Never loved it, but Tweedy’s lyrics are definitely thought-provoking.
  • I like the way he quotes Christ from the Gospel of John. Not sure what to make of it though.

”Less Than You Think”

  • So obviously this one is a drag.
  • But…consider what Tweedy has to say about it and why he thinks it fits into the album.
  • Even as I review it, I’m thinking, "Am I really going to listen to all 11 minutes of this drone?"
  • The answer: "Not today, junior."

”The Late Greats”

  • Love this one.
  • Tweedy really understands what it’s like to be a rabid rock and roll fanboy and a hopeless dreamer.
  • I have so many "late greats" in my life of music listening. Rodan, Month of Sundays, Crain, among many others.


  • This is Wilco’s most transitional record. There lineup was still in-flux with Jorgensen being added and Bach leaving shortly after the completion of the record.
  • I gotta admit, I hate the production on this record. It’s a huge drawback for me. Sounds sort of stuffy.
  • Tweedy is too cool to reach, but it almost feels like he is doing the "anti-reach" here. I don’t think he had a clear sense of direction at the time, and his response was just to put together some tunes that said "I know what I’m doing." This is the anti-Jay Bennett record, though not in any vengeful or bitter sense. It’s simply sounds like Tweedy did everything in his power to avoid making these songs poppy.
  • Visually captivating cover. Not crazy about it, but it grabs you in a minimalist sort of way.


Cohesion (4/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (3.5/5)
Consistency (3.5/5)
Songs (4/5)

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