Overstuffed Rolodex and good will
The tunes, built upon austere pop/rock progressions, prosper more from puppy dog sincerity and sensitivity than daring or ingenuity.Neither the brilliant work of "breakthrough" musical art claimed by its proponents nor the career suicide mission (or words to that effect) Reprise records called the album in refusing to release it, Wilco's yankee hotel foxtrot (picked up and originally released on Nonesuch) is deliberately modest music and quiet thoughts plunged into audacious settings. Kind of like a Norman Rockwell painting done up in dayglo.
The tunes, built upon austere pop/rock progressions, prosper more from puppy dog sincerity and sensitivity than daring or ingenuity. Front man Jeff Tweedy's working class mid-western upbringing seeps through the pores of the 11 calloused-hands tunes which he wrote, or co-wrote with Jay Bennett.
Sounding like a far more innocent, less flamboyant version of Ray Davies (or Ray Davies thinking to himself as opposed to expressing himself), Tweedy exudes honesty and confesses intimately, and in today's popular music cesspool, those positive qualities, more than the electronica/mechanica-twinged clinks and clanks backdrops are what sink this album from a commercial standpoint. Tweedy and company could have stood there and just plain strummed these tunes and aside from a small, sensitive slice of the college and post-graduate crowd, this stuff would drop from the pop chart radar screen faster than a Wally Cox tribute album.
Which means if I'm doing my job and understand who's reading this, you're becoming mighty interested in this record unless you already own the CD that came out early 2002 - light-years ago by popular music standards.
yankee hotel foxtrot is an album about ambivalence, personal regrets, reminiscences, confessions, determination, idealism, purity, and courage. In "War on War," Tweedy sings "You have to lose, you have to learn how to die, if you wanna wanna be alive." About growing up, the 36 year old Tweedy sings "I miss the innocence I've known, playing Kiss covers, beautiful and stoned."
Perseverance and optimism in the face of adversity, with a twist of realism about what life really offers makes a sensible backdrop for someone headquartered in Chicago - the "city of broad shoulders." Tweedy delivers his sermons in subtle, sometimes cryptic wordplay, adding durability to his sturdy sentiments, and complementing the sometimes whimsical musical constructions. If it's not a record that will shake or shape your world, it's one that will make you feel good about it, and in today's, that's accomplishment enough.
Sundazed's gatefold 2 LP 180g set is impeccably produced, with an analog cut by Steve Rooke at Abbey Road, high quality cover art reproduction presented on smooth, matte finished paper. The LP sleeves containing the lyrics, credits and additional artwork are heavy glossy stock. Pressing quality is outstanding, and at $24.95, you wonder how Sundazed does it, given what other labels charge for their thick platters.
yankee hotel foxtrot is a superbly recorded album in the Chicago alternative-rock sonic tradition championed by Steve Albini in the 1980's. Despite all of the studio gimmickry - the electronic drips and drops, the mechanica/musical sound effects, and the rest, this is an honest, musically enriching recording, with audiophile quality instrumental timbres, transparency and soundstaging. The CD sounds great, but when you try on the vinyl, the riches increase: depth and transparency grow, image dimensionality improves, Tweedy's voice emerges from behind a scrim, and you are invited into the production in a way the CD only hints at. This is a record you can put on, turn out the lights and disappear into physically and emotionally, and how many of today's releases can you say that about? Highly recommended - especially on vinyl.