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Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
(Nonesuch Records)
3 Stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: May 21, 2002


By Tony Bonyata

If you've got the time, Wilco's got an album for you. That's because their sixth release Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is far from an immediate collection of songs, but rather a piece which slowly unfolds to reveal some truly beautiful and, at times, haunting numbers, not to mention lead singer / songwriter / guitarist Jeff Tweedy's inescapable sense of melancholy mixed with a pocketful of hope.
Let's first set the record straight by stating that, contrary to what many critic's are claiming, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is not Wilco's masterpiece. If any of their previous work comes close to claiming that prize then one need look no further than two of their earlier releases. Their 1996 album Being There helped bridge the alternative country sounds that Tweedy explored in his previous band Uncle Tupelo with a mesmerizing atmospheric pop, while Summerteeth, released in 1999, not only brushed the country dust off the seat of their pants but also proved to be as close to near-perfect pop as any artist has produced in quite some time.
With that said, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, an album whose material has been largely available on the Internet for the last year, is still a good album despite some occasional meanderings. When Tweedy doesn't sound like he's overdue on getting his Zoloft prescription refilled, such as on the hopeful "Kamera" and "Jesus. etc.," as well as the cheerful "War on War" and the upbeat pop of "Heavy Metal Drummer" the album shines. But there are also numbers, such as "Reservations" and "Radio Cure," that, despite flashes of brilliance in either melody or song structure, ultimately fall prey to meandering forays of avant garde tinkering.
These tinkerings, however, do pay off at times, such as on the opening track, "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart." With alarm clocks ringing and the sounds of Fisher Price percussions hammering to their own beat, multi-instrumentalist Leroy Bach, bassist John Stirratt and drummer Glenn Kotche help to turn Tweedy's distant despair into fine art. A ghostly wind howls through the leisurely Sunday drive of "Pot Kettle Black," while on the bouncy, "I'm the Man Who Loves You," a snarling electric guitar turns this slice of pleasing pop, complete with Glimmer Twin harmonies, into something altogether more demented and interesting.
Still a welcome addition to the Wilco canon, it's probably safe to say that their true masterpiece hasn't even entered Tweedy's mind yet. But fear not, it will.

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