Thursday, April 13, 2017

Wilco - A Ghost Is Born

Wilco's fifth album came out in 2004, and was instantly pegged as their 'experimental' album.  This it definitely is.  But it's also enjoyable to listen to, more so than its predecessor Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.  It opens quietly with At Least That's What You Said, initially with just piano and Jeff Tweedy's voice, before he unleashes Neil Young-style guitar licks after a couple of minutes.  And what towering guitar licks they are, on an album where Tweedy's guitar playing really comes to the fore.  It's followed by a change of tack with the understated piano soft-rock of Hell Is Chrome, before shifting again with ten minute epic Spiders.  With a pulsing beat and repetitive keyboard motif, it sounds a long way from what you'd expect from Wilco.  The tension builds for a few minutes before a joyous, riffing guitar breakdown with a hint of Sonic Youth.  They stretch this out over ten minutes, yet it doesn't ever feel boring, though it eventually ends quite abruptly.  

Muzzle of Bees is a gentle, rootsy strum for the most part with occasional fretwork interludes.  Tweedy's Beatles fixation comes to the fore on piano-dominated tracks like Hummingbird and Theologians.  In the main, fine pop/rock songs like Handshake Drugs and Company In My Back abound on this album.  

The most polarising track for most people will be the 15 minute Less Than You Think.  For the first three minutes it's a soft piano ballad before giving way to 12 minutes of maddening machine drone.  It's total self-indulgence and depending on your mood that's either good or bad.  But rather than finishing with this, we get one final song, the enjoyable Faces-style throwaway The Late Greats.

But it's an album that, once you get into it, is most enjoyable.