Full disclosure: this is the only Wilco album I’ve heard the whole way through. Heresy, I know, but I got swept up in Yankee Hotel Foxtrot fever in 2002. Though, now that I think of it, I may have checked out a few songs from The Whole Love but I couldn’t tell you what or when that happened.
As you’ll recall, 2002 and 2003 were huge years for the indie/garage rock revival. I always get so stoked when people ask what my first ever concert was: 2003, The White Stripes and Whirlwind Heat at the USF Sun Dome, prior to its major renovation. So basically, in the world’s most grotesque, dank and sweaty old garage. I’m proud I never got swindled into going to a Limp Bizkit show since they played a lot in my hometown of Jacksonville. That would have been embarrassing and also hilarious.
YHF is a good jam with some intense memories and feelings attached to it – which is precisely the reason I can’t ever listen to it again. This is one of those albums; the kind with the baggage that prevents you from enjoying it like you should or once did. The kind that you know you should get over and just enjoy, but won’t be able to for one reason or another. I guess I’m okay with that. The fact that this project forced me to listen to it once again is therapeutic in a way, but all of those years flood back in the 50ish minutes the album runs.
Lyrically, a lot of ‘lost love’ songs here, in one form or another. Jeff Tweedy twists words in such a way to create almost backhanded versions of what he actually means. He’s something of a romantic anti-hero by allowing his love to leave (“I Am Trying to Break Your Heart”) but then wanting her back elsewhere.
The problem with Tweedy’s lyrics is that they are, at times… nonsense. Take for instance these two phrases, from “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” –
“I assassin down the avenue.”
And later –
“Take off your band-aid, ’cause I don’t believe in touchdowns.”
Sonically: fun, upbeat tunes like “Kamera,” “I’m The Man Who Loves You” and “Heavy Metal Drummer” are offset by trudging, subversive songs like “Radio Cure” and the ironic, sexual slow-burn “Jesus, Etc.” Both work for the band, slipping in and out of styles easily, even within songs.
I especially dig the mechanical, almost analog breakdown at the end of “Ashes of American Flags” – I liken it to the end of Bright Eyes’ “Road to Joy.” Really good to hear some aggression, especially when this album goes out on two duds (“Poor Places” and “Reservations”).
This album was certified gold, which is bang-up for an ‘indie’-minded band. 500k+ copies sold is nothing to slouch at, especially for any record released in the last… I’d say 15 or so years now.
Good stuff, except for the fact that I’ll never be able to separate this album from the time period. Oh well.
From their 2002 smash hit Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, this is Wilco’s “Pot Kettle Black” –
Standout tracks: “Jesus, Etc.” and “Heavy Metal Drummer”
Weakest track: “Reservations” hasn’t aged well for me – way too syrupy. Yech.
RIYL: Indie rock, folk rock, alt-country. Jeff Tweedy, Uncle Tupelo, some of Conor Oberst’s side projects.