Sound: Ah, finally. I have taken fresh breaths during foggy days before, but none as fresh as this in a time like this. We live in a prepetual state of same-same music with bald-headed frontman, wallowing in self-pitty like a pig in a den, where the trademark 7 string axe rules the day, or where hip hop is blended with several styles just to make a more confusing, lame, corn-ball sound that kids instantly jump onto.
They've jumped on the wrong one, and don't know what there missing.
With Wilco's fourth and best album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, there is no filler. No confusing stuff that gets in the way of the music. This is roots rock Alt Country and there is nothing wrong with that. This could very well be the ultimate chill out album of our generation, and without a doubt the best album of 2002.
It paints quite a story too. Broken hearts, sad songs, being chased with whiskey trying to forget. Through Jeff Tweedy's whiskey soaked, close-miced vocals, we hear the beginning of a relationship falling apart...then forming again.
The album starts with the steady swagger of "I am Trying to Break your Heart," where an orchestra of acoustic guitars, low end drums, bass, and bike bells stumble over each other behind Tweedy's vocals. Then we move to the very Eagle-like "Kamera", where Tweedy takes the role of the drunk, lost on the streets, against very murky vocals ("tell my family that I'm lost on the sidewalk," sings Tweedy).
But no doubt about it, Wilco are a rock band. The album may be dressed in flannel and twang, but this is a rock album, as evident by the attitude put into the guitars, and by the cheesy rock metal guitar fills and solos in "I'm the Man Who Loves You" which also happens to be the point where this relationship comes back together again. // 10
Lyrics: This is a break-up album, and Tweedy's lyric are near perfect in pointing out the obvious. In "I am Trying To Break Your Heart" Tweedy just seems confused ("I'm an American aquarium drinker/I assasin down the avenue"), but never-the-less, it's the beginning. The basic lyrics scheme remains teh same through the album, but one of the most surprising sonsg here is "Radio Cures." On the first listen, you think that this song is going nowhere. It is. But stranglely, you'll still listen to it over and over. It's a warm sounding, deep throated guitar ballad, with stretches of blank space seperating each slow, haunting verse, as if each verse has sailed a thousand miles through rough weather just to get to your ears, as if the message is that important.
The story falls apart, comes together, gets sentimental, then happy, then depressing again, before getting happy one more time in the end. All of these words are coming from Tweedy's broken heart. // 8
Overall Impression: Some will say that this isn't anything revolutionary. Radiohead's Kid A dressed in long hair, flannel shirts, and slow twang. It is at times. But like the greatest albums of our times (The White Album, Exile on Main Street) the roots show through, and that's what make this album what it is. There's actually a funny story behind this album: Wilco came to there label, Reprise, with this album. The executives despised it, claiming it wasn't pop, and sent the band there walking papers.
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is pure, American gold, and one of the best albums that came out of 2002. Bone dry, crackling, and heartfelt, it gets to you, and goes deep. Sad, sad songs that hurt so good. // 10