Itís hard to believe that anyone would turn down the opportunity to be part of Wilcoís latest record Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Shockingly, Reprise decided to drop the band after they delivered their latest effort. In true modern day DIY-spirit, Wilco embraced technology and made their album available in streaming format through their website. Those who spent the time to listen and/or download the many MP3s available from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot knew that it was something special. One has to wonder why any label would reject what might be the album of the year. Fast forward to this week. Wilco have found a supportive home at Nonesuch Records and are on tour to support the proper commercial release of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
Wilco might very well be Americaís answer to Radiohead. Rooted in true American classic rock, country and blues, Jeff Tweedy and co. started out with a simple and groundbreaking Alt. Country sound on their debut album A.M. Since then they have expanded, taken chances and, like Radiohead, gotten better with each record. Every new effort sees Wilco experiment with new styles and sounds without abandoning their original formula for success. 1999ís Summer Teeth was a perfect example of an American pop record that captured Tweedyís Midwestern heart and with his everymanís voice was able to express loneliness and long, wasted nights with impeccably crafted pop perfection.
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is the next logical step for the Chicago transplants. Itís a record born in Middle America and represents the heart of the City. Tweedy seems to have found some new toys in the studio and while this is by no means an electronic-based record, he uses loops and texture to enhance their classic sound. Void of many of the bombastic and riff-heavy tunes of their past records, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is softer and blends melody with laid back heartache and a wink of irony that Tweedy has come to perfect in his lyrics.
Last night, the songs that many Wilco fans have had on their hard drives for months came to life. With a set heavy in new material, Wilco were as tight as ever. Upbeat selections "Iím the Man Who Loves You", "Pot Kettle Black", "War on War" and the single "Heavy Metal Drummer" were as rockiní as the new tunes would get. Quieter moments from YHF "Iím trying to Break Your Heart", "Ashes of American Flags" and "Jesus etc." were intimate and crisp in the Bowery Ballroom setting. It wasnít all about Yankee Hotel Foxtrot as Wilco belted out a few older favorites including "Outtasite (outtamind)", "I Got You" off of Being There and "Iím Always In Love", and "Shot in the Arm" off of Summer Teeth. A new song and an outtake from the Billy Bragg Mermaid Ave collaboration were also bonus highlights to an already amazing set.
After seeing a band like Wilco, you have to be proud of American music. Their music is rooted deep in our music tradition and have proven to be a truly "American Band" through their style, ethic and talent. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is just the latest in what has been and will continue to be a great career for one of USAís finest!