Listen: genius is genius.
Here’s what we know: Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” is genius. This need not be argued, as if we had to argue that the greatest scientific and technical accomplishments were genius – relativity, quantum theory, polio vaccine, the human genome, that programmable Roomba vacuum cleaner. We already know it to be true. Jeff Tweedy’s work on YHF is genius, in the sense of all great forms of human creativity. It’s a subject for appreciation.
Everyone probably falls into one of these camps:
(1) you knew about the problems with the label in 2001, got a copy of a bootleg version, waited in awe for the real deal, and have since smiled with the assurance of fulfillment at those who don’t know;
(2) you listened to the album when it came out in 2002 and recognized its genius then, but then maybe filed it away after your first Ween album and the self-titled “Still of the Night”-containing Whitesnake CD, but before that Wu-Tang Clan disc your friend burned for you because he knew how lame your collection was, while you waited for something like Brandi Carlile to enter the world stage and shift the shelf’s focus lower in the alphabet;
(3) you didn’t listen to it for a while, but then caught the buzz and realized it was legit, thereafter falling in love with the work;
(4) you are only recently somehow, probably upon return from your several-years long silent vigil in Nepal or exploring Mars, coming to know the work and coming to appreciate it; or,
(5) you’re wasting your life in central Ohio, maybe even German Village-era, by giving off vague, “Oh, it’s a long story but I don’t think it’s so great” vibes when the subject comes up, unable to deal with the immensity of the album and probably hiding behind some therapist-client secrets that would better explain your lack of appreciation for what is commonly understood as genius.
There may be other camps, but I think the majority of people can be grouped into the ones given here.
But let’s back up for a moment. Let’s place this album in a larger trajectory. And let’s do it quickly. First, there were numerous 60s-era albums that defined the concept, that defined the very concept, and let’s leave those where they are and not make a big deal out of them. Who wants to read a post about The Beatles, The Stones, The Beach Boys. Well, actually, I’d like to. But it’s not gonna happen here. I’m already way in over my head acting like I can give this run down on YHF, when the “advanced novice” model can only get you so far. But, alas, they invented blogs for just this sort of thing.
How’s about we just skip across these stones: Dark Side of the Moon, OK Computer, and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. You can fill in the late ’70s one for me, and then something from the ’80s….
Right-Oh. Onto the review:
Track 1: “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”
Great song. Great intro. Nice choppiness to it.
Track 2: “Kamera”
Great song. One that echoes in my heart. Get it? I used some of the lyrics to describe the song itself. How quaint.
Track 3: “Radio Cure”
This song? It’s great.
Track 4: “War on War”
Even greater song.
Track 5: “Jesus, Etc.”
Mellifluous. Which is better than great. Huge. Immense. Huge, huge. If you can get that inner immensity to pair up with mellifluosity? That’s the pinnacle, right there. Bounce with this one. Ride the strings. Float.
Track 6: “Ashes of American Flags”
Great song. Nice calm down from the stupor of enjoyment “Jesus, Etc.” gives you. Well-placed.
Track 7: “Heavy Metal Drummer”
Nice up-lift. Plainspoken, straight-on greatness here. “I miss the innocence I’ve known.” If this song were being advertised, the Madison Avenue folks would say, “Enjoy this pop tune without having to explain yourself. Come home, live again, with Heavy Metal Drummer…”
Track 8: “I’m The Man Who Loves You”
I am, it’s so true. I am. Great song.
Track 9: “Pot Kettle Black”
Reminds me of when Kevin Claus, who sure cussed a lot, was drunk and yelling at some girl who was being lewd too, and I used the pot-calling-kettle-black cliché for the first and best time. Great song, too, incidentally.
Track 10: “Poor Places”
I enjoy this particular song. It is good. Thank you for reading my comments on it.
Track 11: “Reservations”
Nice. Plus, in my car, the disc just starts right back over at the end, in what could be an endless loop. So the end is never over. But for Abbey Road and this and the DSOTM and OK Comp already mentioned and Junta and a good handful or two of others, you just don’t want that. We’re in an elite class you got here. I think that’s the main take-away.