For all of the brouhaha and praise being placed upon Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco’s fourth proper album, I’m surprised to find my brand new copy un-played, tucked away alphabetically in my CD collection as soon as I brought it home. I’m sure I’m going to put it in the stereo sometime, but as for now, it looks perfect in my CD case, nestled between Yo La Tengo and my other Wilco albums.
Since September, I’ve been preaching the Wilco gospel to just about anyone who was willing to listen. This list includes my father's podiatrist (huge Bob Dylan fan) to the professors at my business school (editor's note: me, too). I get pretty feverish and zealous about Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and the circumstances that halted its release. At such incidents, you might find me standing on a chair proclaiming that groundbreaking music such as this album must be subsidized by the major label music industry because it’s that good and gives us some hope that music hasn’t all gone to shit.
I’m slowly realizing that not everyone feels as passionately as I do about Wilco. Some prefer Jeff Tweedy’s earlier work in Uncle Tupelo, others feel that the band simply rehashes the classic artists that we already loved like Neil Young and The Byrds. Regardless of how they feel about the music, everyone agrees that Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is fucking punk rock. I say this because the band made an incredible album, handed it to their label and when they were asked to do it over, they said no.
It’s taken two AOL subsidiaries and eight months, but it’s here and sounds better than ever. It’s quite interesting to hear the tracks in the album order as opposed to the mp3s I’ve had for months, but everything else is remarkably the same. The jingle-jangle ragtime pop that filters in and out of the opening “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” still sounds as breathtakingly optimistic as ever. The crackle that emanates throughout “Radio Cure” still gives me chills as Tweedy proclaims: “There is something wrong with me”. Sax horns and the most fucked up guitar solo you’ll ever hear from “I’m the Man Who Loves You” still brings to mind the Big Star-esque moments from 1996’s modern classic Being There.
Like the finest albums recorded, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot brings the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Where earlier Wilco albums highlighted confidence in love, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and to a lesser extent, 1999’s Summerteeth shows Jeff Tweedy’s fragility in the future, uncertainty in relationships and endless possibilities of what is possible amongst people. Unlike other artists where you try to relate your situation to the songs, Wilco’s work just seems so natural, like a conversation with someone you grew up with.
Indeed, the album looks like a prophecy in retrospect. Tracks like “Ashes of an American Flag” and “Jesus, etc…” seem to hint at a world falling to pieces with lines such as: “Tall buildings shake, voices ache singing sad, sad songs.” But by the time the album comes to a close with the new-century ballad “Reservations,” you feel optimistic about the future and confident that everything will be a okay with a little love. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot just sounds classic even though I can’t think of an album that sounds anything like it. It’s what Neil Young fans hoped music might sound like in the future age. It’s taken so much bullshit, but Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is finally our record.
1. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
3. Radio Cure
4. War on War
5. Jesus, Ect.
6. Ashes of American Flags
7. Heavy Metal Drummer
8. I'm the Man Who Loves You
9. Pot Keattle Black
10. Poor Places