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

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.

TRACK NOTES

"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)"

  • KRAUT-ROCK!!!
  • 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.

"Hummingbird"

  • 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.

”Theologians”

  • 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.

ALBUM NOTES

  • 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.

ATTRIBUTES

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

Tracks of the Decade: “Impossible Germany” by Wilco

20080227-wilco-1“Impossible Germany”
by Wilco
from SKY BLUE SKY (2007)

Wilco’s sixth album, SKY BLUE SKY, was a huge turning point for the band, an album that to this day either inspires principled adoration or decisive disgust. “Impossible Germany” was the greatest track off that album, and say what you will about the album as a whole, their IS almost universal consensus that the track is one of Wilco’s greatest. I can’t imagine them ever playing live again without running through “Germany.” It’s the sort of slowly building epic that is bound to induce chills no matter how many times you hear it. The good news is that this stunning ensemble performance is captured to perfection “live in studio” on SKY BLUE SKY. The song’s plaintive country-jazz groove seamlessly segues into a Television-esque guitar freak-out, with the noodly guitars of Jeff Tweedy and Pat Sansone arguing themselves into harmony while Nels Cline brilliantly executes his patented Nels Cline guitar solo. At root, it’s one of Tweedy’s prettiest latter-day melodies, a low-key but frustrated meditation on communication breakdown. In the spirit of the track itself, I won’t put across strident arguments for its status as one of the decade’s greatest. “Impossible Germany” qualifies for its sonic excellence alone. It’s an audiophile’s fantasy worthy of repeated headphone indulgence, and it confirms that the future is wide open for one of the decade’s greatest bands.