Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Wilco's fourth album is an odd oul beast.  In 2001 Reprise Records refused to release it, and it eventually came out in 2002.  It's seen by some as their Kid A.  While it's not that, it does mark the point where Wilco moved away from their alt-country roots and established their own sound.  Opener I Am Trying To Break Your Heart won't jar with anyone familiar with Misunderstood, the opener on Being There - it's a slowbuilding track, melodic for the most part but containing noisier passages.  In truth the album is a kind of enjoyable mess, which, perhaps due to its background, received far more praise than merited from critics.  It has many softly strummed, accessible songs such as Kamera, the repetitive War on War and the Cure-referencing Pot Kettle Black.  Any of these would not have been out of place on Summerteeth, nor would Heavy Metal Drummer, the most uptempo and 'knowing' lyrics here ("shiny, shiny pants and bleached blonde hair, double kick drum by the river").  I'm The Man Who Loves You is a bit like the Beatles played by Crazy Horse while the jaunty folk of Jesus Etc is downright odd.

Far more interesting are the deathly slow crawls.  Radio Cure is the one song here you could imagine Thom Yorke singing.  Instrumentation is minimal, percussion barely there at all, yet this song gets under the skin.  Ashes of American Flags is pure Beatles' White Album.  And not Obla-di Obla-da either, especially the final minute or two of noise.  Better still, the final twelve and a half minutes of the album are occupied by two slow crawls.  The first of these, Poor Places, is a fairly definitive slow march towards nowhere in particular.  Reservations on the other hand is more of a funereal drift into nothingness.  Or if you prefer, a plaintive love song ("I've got reservations about so many things but not about you").  And it is that which sums up the album, it can be taken in more than one way.