A Newborn Ghost Can’t Fly Straight
To bring you up to speed: Wilco has undergone yet another lineup change, and front man Jeff Tweedy has weathered a stretch in rehab for a painkiller addiction. Yet for all the turbulence, the Chicago-based band has managed to release their latest effort, A Ghost is Born. However, the lingering hype of their widely acclaimed Yankee Hotel Foxtrot may have made their footing a bit unsure, for this inconsistent album will leave you panning for its gold. That said, when those gold nuggets do turn up, they are of the finest quality.
Starting with a lazy piano and Tweedyâ€šÃ„Ã´s subdued vocals, the album opener â€šÃ„ÃºAt Least Thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s What You Saidâ€šÃ„Ã¹ has all the markings of a quiet, intimate singer/song-writer track. Then out of left field, Tweedyâ€šÃ„Ã´s guitar surges forward in a noisy romp that musically demonstrates his take on a relationshipâ€šÃ„Ã´s frustrating complexities. It is a high point of the album that is surpassed only by the richly layered â€šÃ„ÃºCompany in My Back.â€šÃ„Ã¹ Unfortunately, what makes the former so irresistible soon goes stale as the first half of AGiB becomes reliant on guitar tangents, as on the repetitious â€šÃ„ÃºSpiders (Kidsmoke),â€šÃ„Ã¹ a song that flounders for over ten minutes. â€šÃ„ÃºLess Than You Think,â€šÃ„Ã¹ a song meant to replicate a headache, works to that end but is little else beyond novelty.
Though repeat runs through the album help smooth it out, the gaps between what works and what doesnâ€šÃ„Ã´t are far too wide to consider AGiB a solid success. Moments do play like gold, but you have to sift through too much to find them.