Friday, August 28, 2009
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Wilco) (2002):
Though I can’t be counted among the legion of critics who love Wilco, I can appreciate the ground-swell of the reception to the band’s fourth album. Delayed time and time again, Jeff Tweedy’s alternative country musings hit the gut hard and refreshingly like a rebellion because finally, thankfully, the band tripped into the electronic age. Bands that pride themselves on longevity sometimes struggle with change and after a patch of purple Wilco could have continued being everyman’s band and careened through the good life. Yet, things changed after 9/11 and Tweedy looked within himself to unspool some of his most personal feelings and plugged in. It had consequences immediately: their label (Reprise) refused to release it, fearing that such an experiment wouldn’t be successful and the two split. In a move that preceded Radiohead, Wilco then offered the album free through their website and the rest is history. It remains the highlight of their career and best selling album (nearly 600,000 copies in America). Despite the upheaval though, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is a record about being in love, not in the classical romantic self but simply loving life and an appreciation of it. Before it was cool to reminisce, Wilco was doing that on tracks like Heavy Metal Drummer, an ode to Kiss. Even better are Tweedy’s slow burners like Radio Cure which expresses the lingering for a lover while away so specifically and Jesus, which is a renewal of faith. The last track is Reservations, which swells memorably and sadly but with a twinge of self-belief. Maybe Tweedy knew all along this project was fated to be definitive of his career and for that he stuck to his guns and we can all acknowledge that perseverance.