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Wilco - A Ghost Is Born


Review: Jack Foley

WILCO singer/songwriter, Jeff Tweedy, indulges his fans in another alt.country road journey - only this time with mixed results.

A Ghost Is Born is the eagerly-anticipated follow-up to 2002's highly-acclaimed Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which had critics drooling.

Tweedy is renowned for his experimental tendencies and, together with regular co-producer, Jim O'Rourke (of Sonic Youth fame), has delivered another album which can be as richly satisfying as it can be intensely annoying.

At its finest, the album delivers some rock-out gems such as I'm A Wheel and Late Greats, but stumbles somewhat during the more nob-twiddling moments, which frequently smack of the artist getting high on his own pretentiousness.

Hence, those which come in at the three to four minute mark work far more efficiently than the ten minute plus tracks - of which there are two.

Opening track, At Least That's What You Said, takes an age to get going, before breaking into a decent guitar riff, which eventually becomes annoying - almost as if the listener has stumbled into a jamming session and pressed record.

While it's good that Wilco does not seem to have become over-burdened by the pressure of success, however, there is the growing feeling that he is trying a little too hard to remain that little bit different - which is a shame.

Another of the album's epics is Spiders (Kidsmoke), which contains some terrific guitar work at certain points, before once again drifting into the experimental territory that renders it a little too offbeat and incessant.

Had it stuck to the gentle simplicity of tracks such as Muzzle of Bees, the Dylan-esque vibe of Wishful Thinking (particularly during its wistful chorus) or the Seventies-infused Theologians, it could have been a tight little gem.

As it stands, however, the experimental nature of the album, however, is best summed up by the penultimate track, Less Than You Think, which starts out as another slow-building, ballad-style track, with potential, before drifting into a morose, and frankly irritating, piece of incidental music that could easily have been removed from The X-Files soundtrack, stretched out for a pointless six-minute plus whistle.

Had the Wilco boys stuck to the good-natured overtones of the final track, Late Greats, which would actually make a really good pop record, the album may have been a great deal better.

As things stand, however, when it's good, A Ghost Is Born is bearable, yet when it's bad, it's truly irritating!

Track listing:
1. At Least That's What You Said
2. Hell Is Chrome
3. Spiders (Kidsmoke)
4. Muzzle of Bees
5. Hummingbird
6. Handshake Drugs
7. Wishful Thinking
8. Company in My Back
9. I'm a Wheel
10. Theologians
11. Less Than You Think
12. Late Greats

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