Wilco's Pop Art

Wilco - Summer Teeth
(Reprise Records)
4 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)

By Tony Bonyata

Although the list of different mutations rock music has seen throughout it's 45 year existence is too staggering to list, one style that has stood the test of time probably more than any other is good old fashioned pop-rock. The kind of rock with melodies so indelible they become etched in your memory for days, months, and when they really click, for a lifetime. The kind of rock with choruses that find you bobbing your head and uncontrollably singing along, whether you know the lyrics or not. The kind of rock that got a little help from our friends, Lennon and McCartney, in the sixties. And the kind of rock that a band named Wilco is helping redefine on the cusp of another decade.
Formed from the dusty denim of country rock band Uncle Tupelo, Chicago resident singer / songwriter Jeff Tweedy, bassist John Stirratt, drummer Ken Coomer along with guitarist / keyboardist Jay Bennett started Wilco as a more straight ahead rock alternative outfit. Although their first three releases (1995's AM, 1996's Being There and 1998's Mermaid Avenue) found them producing much more of a pop sound then their former band, they still retained a country drawl to their music. On their latest album Summer Teeth, however, they have buried their country roots, leaving us with some of the most enduring pop since Brian Wilson bounced into the studio in '66 to make domesticated animal noises.
From the near-perfect pop of the opening number "Can't Stand It" to the undeniably perfect pop of "A Shot In The Arm" Tweedy shows his talent for crafting a radio friendly hit. The contagiousness continues through the snappy "I'm Always In Love" and the smile-inducing 'Nothing'severgonnastandinmyway(again)" with it's lush harmonies, Adrian Belew-flavored guitar solo and Sgt. Pepper-esque song structure.
Tweedy's melancholy tendencies rise to the surface on "Pieholden Suite" and the serene "How To Fight The Loneliness" with it's simple piano intertwining with a backwards guitar loop and ghostly two-step rhythm. The simplistic "Via Chicago" with Tweedy's matter-of-fact vocals and stark production is eloquently juxtaposed with the fuzzed-up feedback from a distorted guitar, while his lilting, ethereal vocals float lightly throughout the haunting lullaby, "My Darling".
While traces of early Elvis Costello, Pink Floyd and David Bowie, as well as the song-crafting magic and studio wizardry of mid-sixties Beatles and Beach Boys weave in and out on Summer Teeth, Wilco makes it sound like it you're hearing it for the first time on this masterpiece of pop-art.

Return to CD Archives
Return to CD Reviews
Return to Menu