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Spotlights [Issue # 9 ]
Wilco: Ghost Of A Chance

By Dean Truitt


After the premature demise of Uncle Tupelo, Jeff Tweedy and his cohorts licked their wounds and regrouped to form Wilco, the reckoning force behind alt-country’s incredible growth over the last ten years. From the very first notes of their 1995 debut’s opener, “I Must Be High,” anyone with ears could quickly discern that there was subdued electricity surging within the band. Each successive CD release by Wilco has demonstrated fearless artistic exploration and met with favorable response. .

More than any of their previous albums, their latest, A Ghost Is Born, carries a spiritual presence that permeates the entire album’s tone and mood. In a time when studio perfection and digital trickery are industry standards, Wilco has always appeared to have no interest in joining the club. Conversely, they are more than willing, even pleased, to have natural imperfections and realize songs are ultimately rough diamonds. The first track, “At Least That’s What You Said,” conjures the wistful lament of Neil Young’s finest work from the After the Gold Rush era. Tweedy’s somewhat detached melancholy is always rendered without overbearing venom in his voice, which makes his storytelling all the more convincing. It would be very easy to believe that most songs in Wilco’s oeuvre are derived from hard-earned experience.

A casual atmosphere encircles A Ghost Is Born like clouds of smoke in a bar about to close on Saturday night. The swampy, contagious piano lick of “Hell Is Chrome” quickly subsides and defers to a sparsely decorated Tweedy vocal and some stinging electric guitars. One gets the impression that the material is very fresh and the band has to communicate with live interaction to attain the blistering, realistic interpretation. Drummer Glenn Kotche’s steady guidance skillfully endures many lengthy jams, which could have possibly been curtailed a bit to provide the album with more focus; however, a group of exceptional musicians earnestly improvising and groping for the next magical moment is never something to criticize.

Curiously, the band successfully balances between the past and future. The feel of “Wishful Thinking,” while not overtly avant garde, evokes a slightly otherworldly atmosphere found on certain Flaming Lips’ recordings. The CD closes with “The Late Greats,” an upbeat, biting satire that mocks the precariously and pathetically safe world of the corporate music industry and its sad casualties. No matter what avenue they choose to travel, Wilco may take a few wrong turns, but always manage to find their way.


A Ghost Is Born
Nonesuch

Ghost Of A Chance Wilco A Ghost Is Born


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