Nonesuch – 2002 – 46 minutes
After the success of Wilco's spiky third album - 1999's 'Summerteeth' - expectations were high for the follow-up. But then frontman Jeff Tweedy asked his friend, sonic experimentalist Jim O'Rourke, to mix the new album. O'Rourke's response was "If you have me mix this record, you're gonna get dropped." But he did, and they were, only - in one of the more ridiculous episodes in the recent history of the American music industry - to be picked up by a subsidiary of their original record company.
So, delayed but undaunted, 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot' has finally been unleashed upon the world – but it's difficult to know what all the hassle was about. It doesn't sound like a record label's worst nightmare nor, as proclaimed in the States, Americana's answer to 'Kid A'. In fact, on this album Wilco (CB radio slang for 'will comply') move even further from their roots in the legendary Uncle Tupelo as they bring Tweedy's radio obsession to a logical conclusion of sorts.
Taking the name 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot' from a shortwave radio code, the songs drift in and out of a fuzz of static and dirty noise, ringing bells and cello sounds. Amidst that are gems like the tongue-in-cheek rock of 'Heavy Metal Drummer' where Tweedy reminisces about: "the innocence I've known/playing Kiss covers/beautiful and stoned". Then there's the gentle 'I'm The Man Who Loves You' (which takes its title from words which float through an earlier song) where he puts his faith – like the Beatles – in the power of holding hands. The Beatles influence also reappears in 'Poor Places' which eventually spirals off into feedback sound, driven through with a mechanised female voice intoning the words "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot"
Although 'YHT' isn't as immediate as its predecessor, Tweedy's corduroy-rough voice has a knack of insinuating itself into your brain – and your heart. Not what was anticipated but still worth waiting for.
Tracklisting: I Am Trying To Break Your Heart - Kamera - Radio Cure - War On War - Jesus Etc - Ashes Of American Flags - Heavy Metal Drummer - I'm The Man Who Loves You - Pot Kettle Black - Reservations