Saturday, June 26, 2004

A Ghost Is Born

I don't intend this to be a full-length review (actually, Pitchfork's review is worth checking out... they piss me off pretty often, but in this case I think they're spot-on), but I've been doing a lot of listening to the new Wilco album, and a couple of things have struck me.

First off, this is the first Wilco album since A.M. that didn't immediately ring my bell. With all of the others, I may have thought they were a little weird at first, but they were pretty obviously great achievements. This one, I don't know. It's got some good stuff, but it's not magnificent in the way that Being There, Summerteeth, and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot are.

The biggest thing is that the band don't seem to be having fun anymore. That always used to be the thing that iced the cake with Wilco- not only was the music really good, there was a sort of submerged joy in it; even on the depressing songs, it was clearly between the lines that they'd enjoyed recording them. And their live shows were energetic hoots. Ghost doesn't really have that. To be honest, Ghost sounds like the recording sessions must have been real bummers (which, given all of the recent news about Tweedy's personal life, I suppose they were). And the last Wilco show I saw, which was about a year ago, was actually pretty stiff.

Weirdly, it seems like Jeff Tweedy is picking up a lot of what I used to think of as Jay Farrar's bad habits. Back during the heyday of the Wilco/ Son Volt rivalry, I always preferred Wilco because Tweedy had some energy and his lyrics had literal meaning, while Farrar just sang strings of words that didn't convey any information while he slumped onstage looking fort of like the porcupine from Pogo. Now Tweedy's lost his fire and gone all abstract-expressionist on us, too.

Weird.

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