Album Cover
A Ghost Is Born
June 22, 2004


(A reenactment of a conversation I had the first time I heard Wilco):
"Will-Koh, like Roger Wilco, ya' know the radio language stuff?"
"Oh, yeah?"
(end reenactment sequence [thanks special fx dpt.])

Ah, the greatest American love affair belongs solely to Americans. It was American girls who first threw their panties at the Beatles. And, it was Americans that first gaped at Elvis' shimmerin' hips shimmering. As far as American bands go, Wilco is a shimmering example of the archetypal American band. Though, many apocalypses will fall when they cover "We're an American Band" And, yet, it is true that a good portion of America knows little of the semi-famous band, but what America doesn't know only hurts other countries. (zing!) Why have I so propitiously christened Wilco with the task of summing up America? Well, it's because they best fit the "riding into the sunset" aura, that is all-important to such status.

Even so, their latest album, A Ghost Is Born, is a further justification for securing the office they hold. They still employ thoughtful piano melodies and Tweedy's slightly twangy voice that so characterized their previous albums. Here, though, they let free the guitar hounds and oft opt for distortion laden gee-tar riffs. These so exceptionally consume the opening track, "At Least That's What You Said," that I feared they'd fail to reach such mastery on the entire remaining album. But, they did and do.

It's obvious that Tweedy has become a linchpin of a songwriter. Elsewhere, he has shone with streaming talent, but on Ghost, Tweedy reaches even higher ground. Gone are the superfluous accessories that bogged down Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and in their place stand a sincerity rarely achieved in modern songwriting. On "Hell Is Chrome" Tweedy so effectively settles a clearer account of evil with lyrics like, "When the devil came/he was not red/ he was chrome and he said/come with me."

The paradox of the album is that even in its simpler structure, compared with previous offerings by the band, it manages to transcend the sum of the parts. I have rarely before, and almost never recently, heard a couple of guitars, drums, and piano sound as invigorating and fresh as they do on Ghost.

"Theologians" may just be the best song to grace speakers all of this year. Here, Tweedy not just joins his Americana with alternative styling but manages to incorporate a sunny pop melody that hints at the original conversion of the country blues into pop culture. I'm talking about "Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay" folks. Is Tweedy, in fact, Otis Redding reincarnate? I could have written more pilings of praise but I figure that I've already lauded praise enough, and can only recommend that if you only listen to one album this year, make it this one.

Jacob Daley

Track List

  1. At Least That's What You Said
  2. Hell Is Chrome
  3. Spiders (Kidsmoke)
  4. Muzzle of Bees
  5. Hummingbird
  6. Handshake Drugs
  7. Wishful Thinking
  8. Company in My Back
  9. I'm a Wheel
  10. Theologians
  11. Less Than You Think
  12. Late Greats