|Chris Ryan week concludes with a selection from circa 2002 (although it was available online for free before that). Based out of the windy city….Chicago, IL
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Listen to it here: http://grooveshark.com/#!/playlist/Wilco+Yankee+Foxtrot/69163935
Read about the album here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yankee_Hotel_Foxtrot
Fun Facts: The album was named after a series of letters in the phonetic alphabet that Tweedy had heard on the Irdial box set The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations. On the fourth track of the album Phonetic Alphabet – Nato (help·info), a woman repeats the words “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” numerous times; a clip from this track was placed in the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot song “Poor Places”. Irdial sued Wilco for copyright infringement, and a settlement was reached out of court.
|Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: 5 stars
Precon: One of my favorite albums. Like many people, it’s the one that introduced me to Wilco, although I think I’d heard of them before but never paid attention. I didn’t even pay attention after this blew up until I heard the backstory of the album getting dropped by a major label, gaining huge internet buzz, then getting picked up by a subsidiary of the same label for a higher price. I remember buying this along with The Streets’ A Grand Don’t Come For Free and Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights right before a trip to Disney in 2005, forever linking the three. It’s funny, the circumstances that create such indelible marks on your subconscious, like sitting in the terminal at Bradley in a hazy 5am fugue, a little nervous, a little hungry, gooesbumps because you’re dressed for 90 but it’s 45, with your Sony Discman on its farewell tour etching three albums into the wax cylinder of your brain. Of the three, Wilco obviously came out on top, with the Streets not too far behind, but even something like the Interpol album, which I don’t listen to much anymore, can evoke such powerful feelings if I were to just put it on for 30 seconds, and it’s all because of those subconscious bonds. This is why we have a record club.
Favorite Track: I can never decide between Jesus Etc and I’m the Man Who Loves You.
My first thought about this album was that “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” had annoying lyrics. I used to think lines like “I assassin down the avenue” were painfully artsy and smacked of trying too hard. Doesn’t really bother me at all anymore, but I guess, being fresh out of college back then, I was quicker to judge. I similarly turned my nose up at the xylophone (vibraphone?) in “Kamera” thinking it was too cute, but now I think it’s fine. Not sure if I’ve become less snobby or more boorish.
One part of “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” I always found interesting was the “I’m the man who loves you” bit at the end. I wonder which song came first. Was this a reference to the other song or was it the seed?
“Radio Cure” is just a little too protracted and depressed for me. Yeah, that’s what it’s about, but I still wish they reworked it a little. So the whole thing is disinterested for the first half, then we get teased like it’s about to pick up, then it stalls, then it finally delivers for about 45 seconds near the end before another 30 seconds of depression. They could have got that same payoff without so much stalling, and it wouldn’t have disrupted the flow of the album as much.
As I’ve stated before, this album has the greatest tracks 4-9 ever. “War on War” and “Pot Kettle Black” the staunch bookends, “Jesus Etc” one of the stars of the whole album with the violin and that chorus, close to a perfect song, “Ashes of American Flags” maybe the worst of the bunch but still good, “Heavy Metal Drummer” probably the most accessible song on the album, and of course “I’m the Man Who Loves You,” the other standout with its style juxtapositions and creative phrasing. It’s a good run.
An incredible album with added significance for me that puts it in the all timer category. I love it.
|Wilco-Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Preconceived Notions: I feel like this album was one of those things that really started this whole notion of a more concentrated effort of listening for me. A couple of years ago when I revealed that I had not, in fact, heard this album, Chris Ryan pretty much made sure I listened to it then and there. There were things I liked, things that didn’t grab me, but I can’t say that I remember anything about the album, specifically from that listen. I’m curious to see if it still fades into the background after all of these other albums, or if the purported greatness of this album from numerous online and tactile publications, finally smacks me full in the face this time. Maybe it’s a case where with a better listener, a better album emerges, I don’t know. I do have the sense that, for many, this album is like hipster Mecca on their cd racks or, more likely, vinyl collections and that I’ve been meaning to watch the documentary on Netflix for at least three weeks now.
After Listening: I think the problem that I have with this album is the monotony of it. Every song seems to have pretty much the same pacing and a pretty similar feel and Tweedy’s voice, while nice, is just that, nice. The songs are nice too. I actually liked that there was a live version thrown in on the album because it changed things up, gave it a different feel and it might be that Wilco is just a live band. Maybe all of the love built up for these guys is from seeing them live but I just didn’t feel like any of that passion translated into the recordings. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot hits a high plateau, but a plateau nonetheless. It’s polished, with great production, but with the exception of 3 tracks, I felt like it was all just washing over me, it wasn’t unpleasant per se, but more like a lukewarm shower that leans towards the cold side, where you think it’ll be ok and then four minutes in, you just want it over with.
Favorite tracks: Jesus, Etc/Poor Places/Kamera
|Preconceived Notions: I gave Wilco a chance on some stuff during the golden days of pre-record club, when CGR sat diagonally across from me – and when we would take lunch with brews, before it was all ended by a beast from the northern country. Anywho, Wilco might have been one of the very 1st bands we went back and forth on…and unfortunately I could never get into the samples Chris sent my way. I seem to recall them having a very “Grateful Dead” vibe to them, and I loathe the Dead. I was certain they’d pop up during RC season 1, but I guess all things in time.
After Listening: There are definite moments of “The Dead” influence here, mixed in among some light heroin vibes, pop, and vague indie rock references. There’s some decent guitar work on this record, it isn’t anything brand new – but you have to appreciate the solid musicianship in the cleverly muted sections And they do mix in their various influences with a reasonable amount of control and a good instrumental palate from lap steel guitar, to horns, to vibraphone. The album sort of struggles when they add energy to the mix, they don’t ever verge over the cliff into complete cacophony- in fact they wind up in the complete generic opposite direction. And so the album presents me with sort of a conflict – Wilco is better in their mellow jam moments than their rock moments, and yet I’m not a big fan of jam music. Vocally I can’t really identify with the voice except for when it veers close to Jerry Garica territory –and even then it’s not an instant irritant unless the music behind it makes it so.
Favorite Tracks: Kamera – There’s a very subtle aggressive rhythm going on beneath the vocals here. Short, competent guitar lines and what I believe to be glockenspiel accents – this gives it sort of a pots and pans type of retro rock feel.
Least Favorite Tracks: War on War – just a folk song updated for our generation. But not really updated in any way that makes it a distinct sounding piece of music. You listen and you know it was recorded in the modern era thanks to some weird & brief synth effects, but there’s virtually nothing new about the chord patterns or any of the arrangements. This one has the most of the Grateful Dead influence on the album.
Overall 2.93 Wilco seems to be one of the 00’s real darling and influential acts, and even after listening to now an album’s worth of their material I can’t do more than guess as to why that would be. Maybe part of it is that in comparison to some of their peers Wilco actually does deserve some nominal credit for tinkering with instrumentation, and no doubt their fame in part has to rest on their anti-corporate release of this very album – I mean if anything screams “indie”, releasing an album free online because of contract and ownership feuds with record companies more than fits that bill. And those things are all well and good, but I can’t anoint them anything based on purely the music they produce. It all winds up just sort of ok, surprisingly to me better in its mellow moments – most of this album anyway hits the average or worse category when they “rock” things up. A record I’m glad to have experienced for the experience, but not one worth putting into rotation.
|Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
I HAVE heard of Wilco before, but I’m pretty sure it was listening to one of them getting interviewed by Chris Hardwick for the Nerdist podcast. It’s probably uncool of me to admit that I haven’t heard any of their music (that I know of).
Least favorite track/tracks:
Overall (1-5 stars): 3