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Wilco

Inexplicably, Wilco have become quite the contentious band. Many of the same critics and fans who hailed them as the little guy (small band) triumphing over the big guy (major label) during their Yankee Hotel Foxtrot debacle did an about-face last year when they released A Ghost Is Born. Admittedly, Ghost isn't a neo-classic like Yankee, but it's still pretty damn good, and it's phenomenal live.

Culled from a three-night stand in their hometown of Chicago, Wilco impressively rock their way through 23 tracks on Kicking Television, their first live release. Classic Wilco tracks like Summerteeth's buzzing "A Shot in the Arm" and Being There's brooding "Misunderstood" are properly handled, but it's the newer material that really shines over the two-disc set.

The Ghost tracks are particularly enriched by the six-member band. Tracks like the groove-laden, Dead-esque "Handshake Drugs" and the Kraut-rock guitar orgy of "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" are remarkable live. However, if I were being picky, I would've ditched the simmering "Muzzle of Bees" or the plaintive "Wishful Thinking" for some older tracks--but they still outshine their album versions by far.

Meanwhile, the Yankee tracks solidify all the reasons that album is a masterpiece. Tweedy's lyrics are poetic and stinging (take the swelling "Poor Places"); Kotche's drumming is experimental and loose (try the cacophonous "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart") and Nels Cline makes his guitar whine and moan (check the punch-drunk "I'm the Man Who Loves You"). As far as live albums go, Wilco have secured a spot near the top.

More by Michael Petitti

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