Wilco

A Ghost Is Born (Nonesuch)

Though die-hard fans will surely love it, A Ghost Is Born lacks much of the trilling beauty of the band's 2002 triumph, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. This is probably to the satisfaction of front man Jeff Tweedy, whose guitar is starting to echo the ragged glory of Neil Young on his noisy days. In fact, Young is a more appropriate reference point for Ghost than the terms "Beatlesesque" or "Wilsonian," which were attached to Summerteeth and Yankee (although "I'm a Wheel" recalls John Lennon at his most brash). You can hear Young in the searing jam on the 11-minute "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" and in the way the album moves from gentle songs to white noise. "Handshake Drugs" starts off as a lovely, folksy number that dissolves into burbling noise. Fans of Tweedy's increasingly abstract lyrics won't be disappointed, either, as the album contains several of those poetic images just on the sublime side of ridiculous. But as reviews trickle in, expect references to "the ghost of Jay Bennett," since the band's former member is credited with many of the poppier, polished moments on the last few Wilco records and his adherence to that sound is seen as one of the main reasons he was asked to leave. Overall, A Ghost Is Born proves that Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was a true transitional album: Ghost equals Yankee Hotel Foxtrot minus Summerteeth. It's good that the band is evolving, but those who love the group's earlier beauty might wish Wilco hadn't grown up so fast.

 
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