Friday, May 22, 2009

Wilco (The Reviews) Part 3

Every Friday until June 26th, Hightower and Jones will review an album from Wilco's catalog to celebrate Wilco's seventh studio release, "Wilco (The Album)" (in stores June 30th). With all formalities out of the way, let continue with...

Wilco's brief flirtation with Pop reinvents the band and gives Pitchfork an album to place at No. 31 on their list of the best albums of the 1990s.
As with the previous album, there's a new lineup (a reoccuring element to all of their albums until now). Multi-instrumentalist Max Johnston is out of the band which gives forth to a new change in their sound. The Alt-Country sound is still there to a degree but it has more of an Alternative and Pop sound to it. There are banjos and lap steel guitar but now instead of accenting the music, it's upfront and helping to push the song along. On top of that, vocal harmonies, mellotron, synthesizers and plenty of overdubbing give the album an almost 60's Pop sound. This is Summerteeth.

While not as ambitious as Being There, Summerteeth is still one of the most ambitious albums Wilco has ever recorded. Definitely, one of the most pecular albums they've ever recorded and an album that further shows why they are one of the most important bands of this decade as well as the last 20 years.

As stated earlier, this album is one of their most pecular as in it was created mostly in the studio by singer/guitarist Jeff Tweedy and multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett. With the exception of a few songs, they wrote the entire album. On top of that, Bennett produced and mixed the album as well as overdubbed extra instruments or, in some cases, re-recorded the bass and drum tracks. Instead of an organic sound, the album is loaded with synths and various other elements. It is a producer's dream album.

The demos for the album are definitely stripped down than the finalized product. You can hear Stiratt and Coomer playing their instruments and adding backing vocals. There are still synth parts but the performance is more of an added attraction. There are bits of overdubbing but not anywhere near the amount on the final release. You can hear the bass throughout "Pieholden Suite." The only certain thing is that is was going to be a poppier album all along and one that sounds more like it was recorded in the 60's.

The songs range from the almost orchestral "Can't Stand It" to the harmonizing ballad "My Darling." "Nothing'severgonnastandinmyway (again)" and "ELT" are the two songs that best connect this album to Wilco's previous album, Being There. As a whole, the album's production is amazing. The songs have life and body. Despite the excessive overdubbing, none of the tracks are muddy or poorly mixed.

Summerteeth is a great album and I think the one album that non Wilco fans would enjoy the most. If the band's name weren't on the cover, you would never be able to tell it's a Wilco album. On the demos, it sounds like Wilco but the final version is that of Tweedy and Bennett and feels like a different band alltogether. Still, it's one of the best albums of the band's career and definitely one of the most recommended. Join Hightower and Jones next week when Wilco creates the album that made the band one of the most respected artists of this decade with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or as I see it three lineup changes, a documentary and a record label paying for the same album twice.

Suggested Tracks:
"Can't Stand It"
"A Shot In The Arm"
"I'm Always In Love"
"How To Fight Loneliness"
"ELT" (listen to the demo to hear the pre-Bennett difference)
"My Darling"
"When You Wake Up Feeling Old"
"Summer Teeth"
"Tried And True" (Demoed for the album but didn't make it)

Buy Summerteeth here and hear the demos here.

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