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CD Reviews:  Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

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Often, the truly legendary records are passed over by the radio and MTV executives, but gobbled up by the critics. The merits of such recordings are not so much how many catchy No.1 singles or videos they can spawn, but how deep the artistic creativity runs. The groundbreaking elements of Wilco's new Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album are astonishing. Nearly every percussive instrument known to man is present, some all at once! The songwriting is revolutionary, even for Jeff Tweedy, and somehow it all comes together in random yet harmonious fashion.

"I am Trying to Break Your Heart" opens with a slow, drunken pace that drags through several minutes of piano, xylophone and off-tempo drums. "This is not a joke, so please stop smiling/ What was I thinking when I said it didn't hurt," Tweedy spews in an intoxicating tone. Since no previous Wilco project has been molded after another, it makes perfect sense that Yankee Hotel Foxtrot departs again, but the distance of this departure is worth noting. There are not even two songs on this latest record that sound alike, nor do they mimic much from the band's jaded seven-year history. "Ashes Of American Flags" starts like a church hymn before settling into one of the sweetest moments along the album. Regardless of the multi-instrumental accompaniment, the backbone of Wilco is, and always has been, Tweedy's acoustic guitar and voice saddled with bassist John Stirratt's harmonizing background vocals. "War On War" showcases all three crucial elements in a hop-skip-jump of a pop rock number, as instantly appealing as anything else in this new batch of songs.

Anyone who forms an opinion halfway through Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is making a gross error. When the rollicking "Heavy Metal Drummer" kicks off the second half of the album, you immediately get the feeling that someone's just lit a fire under the band, turned the lights on, or shown them a stage in front of 3,000 screaming fans. "I miss the innocence I've known, playing Kiss covers beautiful and stoned," Tweedy admits in a light-hearted state of rock'n'roll bliss. The hammer really gets dropped, however, on the following "I'm the Man Who Loves You," with its raucous tempo, blaring brass horns and stifling guitars. Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles comes racing to mind during this dandy, and as the song fades out with a piercing guitar and stuttering drums, you might even be waiting for the hidden "Paul is dead" line in the background.

In a recent interview, Jeff Tweedy notes that Warner Brothers, Inc. essentially paid for this album twice, since they own both Reprise Records and the new Wilco label, Nonesuch. While corporate suits may not have cared for the odd musical diversity within Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, many in the critical and record-buying community can see that maybe those execs didn't give this wonderful serum enough time to take. The creative flower that is Wilco may not bloom as quickly for each listener, but the effort is divine and more than unique in this Creed generation.

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