Making a case: What's happened to Wilco?

A Ghost is Born
Nonesuch records

Maybe it's a fake. Maybe they're just joshing us. Maybe the real one exists, buried away in some vault until the right time for its release. Maybe Jeff Tweedy's reported addiction to painkillers had something to do with it. Maybe, maybe, maybe...


Wilco, everyone's favorite alt-country-gone-

ber-electric group began streaming its fifth album, A Ghost Is Born, from the website last month, nearly two months before its scheduled release date.

This is the same technique the band used on their last release, the critically acclaimed Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

The new album, while containing a few high points, is a mixture of numbers that run the gamut from slow piano songs to slow guitar-based tracks, and is noticeably slighter than YHF.

This suggests Jeff Tweedy (Wilco's front-man and chief songwriter) has been a victim of:

- Alien abduction

- Baby switch time travel (What if we could go back and replace the baby Hitler with the baby Shirley Temple? Think about it.)

- Hypnosis: "When I clap my hands, you will wake up and begin to suck."


Track 1: Things start out slow with "At least that's what you said," clocking in at 5:35. For the first two minutes a revolving vocal melody on top of faint electric guitar and a simple two-chord piano riff are your only sonic friends. At 3:30 or so, distorted electric guitar and drums make things a bit more interesting, but not much, and lyrics disappear for the song's second half.

Track 2: "Hell is chrome" clocking in at 4:40, is piano based as well, and lyrically more interesting than track 1- "When the devil came, he was not red / He was chrome and he said

" Tweedy sings, shortly before beginning a chorus chord/vocal match-up that will remind you of Lennon's "Imagine" unless you were a Stones' fan.

Track 3: ("Spiders (Kidsmoke)") What the hell? Ten minutes forty-eight seconds? And the song only has vocals for about a third of it, the rest filled with the sound of Wilco jamming out? The only way I could sit through this track if I wasn't getting paid for it would be the result of sleep paralysis (resulting from listening to the track) or massive illicit substance intake.

Track 9: "I'm a wheel" has some of the dumbest lyrics I've heard since the junior high school band that played our 8th grade Sadie Hawkins dance. "Once in Germany someone said "nine"/1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9"? Oh my god, that's horrible, and the song is not interesting enough instrumentally or melody-wise to redeem itself.

I could go on and on presenting evidence against A Ghost Is Born, and I know I should present some in support of it. At this point, however, I'm too depressed to keep listening to the album. Track 6, "Handshake drugs," is a great track, but it sounds like the pop-Wilco of old, and I can find better versions of that from 1995, 1996, 1999, and 2002.

Closing Argument:

Ranging from slow to slower to jam to even more jam, on A Ghost Is Born, Tweedy and Wilco have lost it.

A Ghost is Born