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    Wilco

    A Ghost Is Born 7 ( 2004 )
    At Least That's What You Said / Hell Is Chrome / Spiders (Kidsmoke) / Muzzle of Bees / Hummingbird / Handshake Drugs / Wishful Thinking / Company in My Back / I'm a Wheel / Theologians / Less Than You Think / The Late Greats

    'A Ghost Is Born' is somewhat a strange construction. Jim O'Rourke's involvement seemingly gets ever greater, effectively becoming another band member. Really, we've two albums in one here, side by side with each other, occasionally during the same song. 'At Least That's What You Said' most successfully marries the two styles, the avant-garde, experimental Neu!-isms of O'Rouke alongside the more traditional americana of Wilco. A soft ballad therefore turns into wild guitar lines over abstract, pretty piano lines. The next track is a country ballad with a slow, honky tonk piano. The third track is ten minutes plus of Can/Neu! groove married to electronic experimentation. Somewhere within those ten minutes they also manage remarkably to fit in a tune. Did I mention by the way that the more 'straight' 'Hell Is Chrome' and fourth tune 'Muzzle Of Bees' are both absolutely lovely? Well, I have done now. Inspired by their succesful experimentations, Wilco prove they can still knock out a decent tune in time honoured fashion. 'A Muzzle Of Bees' is delicate, sounds heartfelt and poetic and works on just about every level as a composition for me. I also really like 'Handshake Drugs', it's got really melodic bass lines and a pleasingly winning, charming soft vocal.

    Several decent-enough slow to mid-tempo tunes threaten to cause the middle of 'A Ghost Is Born' to sag under its own weight, so i'm thanking that 'I'm A Wheel' is a speedy little thing. We then face the fifteen minute 'Less Than You Think', which alongside 'At Least That's What You Said' and 'Spiders', could be said to form the heart of this LP. It's a shame then that 'At Least That's What You Said' is a two minute tune married to thirteen minutes of ambient noise akin to the buzzing of a fridge. Quite frankly, it's a piece of self-indulgent trash masquerading as avant-garde and severely hampers the album as a cohesive whole. All we have left afterwards is a breezy two minute country pop song. You quite welcome it after 'Less Than You Think', it's one of the better songs on the album is 'The Late Greats'. So, 'A Ghost Is Born' in summary? Well, the production and mixing lends the album a terrific, rich and varied sound. 'Spiders' is quite brilliant, 'Less Than You Think' is trash and everything else is somewhere inbetween. It is tempting to believe there is half an hours worth of actual material here alongside much padding. Still, a decent enough '7' seems fair to me.

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    Readers Comments

    Gazza garyhess44@hotmail.com
    Adrians review of this hasnt materialised , and as its such a good album i thought id comment. I love this album for a variety of reasons , the way the opening track goes from gentle ballad to a crazy horse style jam midway , the way "hummingbird" sounds like it belongs on a george harrison album ,the beautiful folk of "muzzle of bees" and "wishful thinking" , the way tweedy speaks intimately to the listener about addiction and recovery "hell is chrome" "handshake drugs" without being judgemental or self pitying and with ace tunes. Yes it has experimental moments that can jar, "less than you thinks" endless ambient noise is tedious , and "kidsmoke" with its motorik krautrock beat is also too long but wilco are about that in a way . They always try and surprise their audience and themselves in some way . The closing "the late greats" sees wilco showing solidarity with "the best bands that ever were dont get played on the radio" and siding with the outsiders as alway! s . Tweedy suggests this a healthier place to be than the mainstream , hence the bright sunny melody . Its a great album slightly less so than "yankeehotelfoxtrot" but this is one of the best bands in the world currently 8.5/10


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    Sky Blue Sky ( 2007 )
    Either Way / You Are My Face / Impossible Germany / Sky Blue Sky / Side With The Seeds / Shake It Off / Please Be Patient With Me / Hate It Here / Leave Me (Like You Found Me) / Walken / What Light / On And On And On

    We've had 'Being There', 'Hotel Yankee Foxtrot' and the Billy Bragg/Woody Guthrie albums. Will 'Sky Blue Sky' be able to place itself alongside the bands best work? They've gone for a fairly relaxed pop/rock sound with the empasis on pop songs played in a pop/rock fashion, if that makes sense. Never one to make Beatles comparisons myself because usually they are fairly pointless, but there are McCartney and Lennon-isms all over this album. Wilco have reached a certain stage in their career where reinvention is almost expected. High quality is expected and anything less than a slam-dunk is likely to cause much shrugging of shoulders for everyone apart from rabid fans. No doubting this group have released some very fine music in their time. As for a song like 'Shake It Off', all it does is make me deduct a point from a perfect score of 'ten' straight away, even without hearing the rest of the album. Good musicianship but a lack of melody and real ideas cause problems, you see. Of course, No Wilco album is going to exist without at least some affecting songs along the way. I love 'Hate It Here', it's a mellow sound with good lyrics and vocals and piano and I always likes me some piano based pop music. Pop music and Wilco in the same sentence? Well, in an ideal world they'd be selling a lot more records. Sadly, their time or chance to do that has probably passed. I'm reminded again of The Beatles in parts of 'Hate It Here' and I never realised these guys were Beatle fans before. 'Hate It Here' in a different universe could have been written by either George Harrison or John Lennon'.

    'On And On And On' opens with a two note Piano for twenty seconds. Then the song title sung out flatly. A four minute song that does nothing for half the time it lasts then burts into sound, the sound of a tight band borrowing ideas from Paul McCartney rather than creating their own. Ultimately, this Wilco album contains little excitement and too many worthy but dull tracks like 'Side With The Seeds'. If they'd sided with Nick Cave's bad-seeds we might have had a better album. I wanted something that wasn't quite so mellow. I like my Wilco best when they manage to actually write good songs, not something they always manage to do. 'You Are My Face' though has literate and clever lyrics, biting guitar segments, lovely soft vocals and manages to be both soft and lovely and hint at a far more interestingly noisy Wilco yet to appear, all at the same time. A nice acoustic number arrives with 'Please Be Patient With Me'. No production at all as such, just voice and guitar and it serves them well. A minute fifty in, an electric guitar appears rather tastefully, keeping the interest flowing. I want some 'ooohs and aahhhs' in here though. A little imagination would have made the song better, but it's still a good song. A cover of 'Thirteen' by Big Star would be nice too although would only serve to upset the other songs, clearly nowhere near in the same ball-park. Disappointing.

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    Readers Comments

    Gazza garyhess44@hotmail.com
    Think youve underrated this a little . I agree its not as immediate as the previous records but it needs a bit of repeated listening on headphones to kick in . The electronic treatments are gone replaced by a lot of guitar solos and a mellow west coast sound but i think the songs are strong , even when the solos dont particularly suit the songs (impossible germanys tedious jazzwank solos and the fleetwood mac and allman brothers style guitarfests elsewhere) The beatles are here too adrians right - some of tweedys chord structures would have fitted on imagine or the white album . He also shares lennons frankness with sharing his emotional landscape. Lyrically and vocally tweedys at his best here chronicling his addiction , depression and reconciling his desire for romantic love with his tendency to isolation . I can detect the influences of graham nash,randy newman and jackson browne in places and hurrah - the pedal steel is back . "what light" could have made ! an uncle tupelo album ! Best songs ? Well the 1st 4 are excellent and "leave me" "be patient with me" and "hate it here" are all excellent touching songs with more than a of tongue in cheek . The closing "on and on and on" sees tweedy consoling himself that even though all things end love has the power to endure .It leaves the listener with the feeling of having a contented hug with a loved one . Damn its pretty . Tweedy sounds like an artist happy to be alive and ready to engage with the world. Its good to have him. 8.5/10

    Zachary
    If you never realized that Wilco were Beatles fans before, then you clearly haven't listened to Summerteeth. I think this album caught a lot of slack for being "safe". I'm not sure what exactly this means, as music is rarely dangerous. I understand it doesn't have the feedback and dark material that littered both "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" and "A Ghost Is Born". However, I think this album deserves better than it's gotten. Jeff Tweety set out to make an album that his wife could listen to, which I think is awesome. The guy is the driving force behind the band that had become the American critics' darlings, and has the balls to create a record full of quiet, simple songs that his wife can enjoy (i.e. not littered with lyrics such as "I dreamed about killing you again last night and it felt alright to me"). Ironically, this may be Wilco's least "safe" album yet because it goes against what the critics expected and wanted. Not their best effort, but better than "A Ghost Is Born". Y! ou should review "Summerteeth" though, I'm curious to see what you would think about it.

    Ben
    Zachary: yes, Adrian should review Summerteeth but he hasn't done Yankee Hotel Foxtrot yet! That is surely the apex against which other Wilco albums (on the way up and on the way down) should be measured. For me, Sky Blue Sky is second only to YHF (though quite different) because of its easy charm and solid songwriting: the first four songs especially. And no "noise" tracks. 8/10.

    DG
    all wilco albums (except A.M.) deserve a 9/10. Sky blue sky contains wonderful simple songs. I must admit that i really love Tweedy's voice and lyrics in all of his records. I think sky blue sky contains the best lyrics, along with a ghost is born. The best way to hear the album is to not compare with anything, just listen. You are my face, Impossible germany, please be patient with me, hate it here, leave me, walkin, on and on and on are the best songs. It's definitely a 9.


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    Wilco 7 ( 2009 )
    Wilco (The Song) / Deeper Down / One Wing / Bull Black Nova / You And I / You Never Know / Country Disappeared / Solitaire / I'll Fight / Sonny Feeling / Everlasting Everything

    Wilco have become a victim of their own success. No longer it seems is a well-produced, well written and well-performed album good enough for their fans and the critics. They've returned fully to country/rootsy pop-rock but then again, didn't they release a double album of this kind of stuff in the past? What's going on? Well, Wilco by Wilco is just a good album of songs, that's all. If that's not enough, go off and listen to some rap music instead if you want 'apparent' innovation and double albums. Jeff Tweedy and John Stirratt (bass) are in fact the only original band members left and this, the groups seventh LP arrives in light of the death of former member, Jay Bennett. Back to basics is 'Wilco' and it even sees fit to open with a song called 'Wilco'. So, that'll be Wilco on Wilco by Wilco. Most bands don't wait seven albums to release a band title-track. 'Bull Black Nova' is the albums high-water mark, yet alongside that rather dark piece of almost pyschedelia are several very nice, superbly constructed pop songs. This is a quiet album, an unassuming album that in places the ghost of George Harrison inhabits. Let's take 'You Never Know', the country element is there but the guitar work is pure solo Harrison and very nice to hear. 'You A I' is a very pleasant lilting pop/rock song of the kind you wonder that anybody makes any more. There's craft here, you see. If U2 are wondering why their new album got mediocre reviews, witness the craft there compared to here. The dignity present throughout this Wilco album that tries just hard enough and no more.

    'Sunny Feeling' captures a wonderful magic that only Wilco can do. Nobody else sounds like this and after Wilco themselves have experimented with sounding like all sorts of things, it's nice that at last they've found a place for themselves and funnily enough, it's a similar place to where they started out from.


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    this page last updated 20/09/09


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