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From the first few seconds of A Ghost Is Born, it's clear that this is going to be a very different record than 2002's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. A quiet piano starts, and Jeff Tweedy begins singing; after a few verses, an electronic guitar noodles its way in, and that's the rest of the song: piano, drums, bass and a guitar going gyroscopic. It's rock like they used to play it, relying on nothing but good lyrics, good instrumentation and a willingness to just let the music take control, man.

Consequently, A Ghost Is Born sounds as if the ghost it's channeling is John Lennon. Where Yankee Hotel Foxtrot completely fucked with the conceptions of how to structure a song, A Ghost Is Born does so even more by harkening back to the beginnings. The songs will begin "normally," then change key or rhythm suddenly, and it's all based around whatever crazy thing Jeff Tweedy does with his guitar. Not only is Tweedy probably the most genius songwriter since John and Paul, but man, can he play a mean guitar.

The songs on A Ghost Is Born are long and wonderfully strange, and full of contrast: "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" has a brilliant pairing of fairly unmelodic verses and catchy as hell choruses that go back and forth and back and forth for 10 minutes, and "Less Than You Think" has weird radio static noises that go on for about 12 minutes before they fade out. "Muzzle of Bees" and "Hummingbird" are full of the same subtle complexities that made Yankee Hotel Foxtrot many critics' pick for the best record of 2002.

Though it can't quite eclipse its predecessor, A Ghost Is Born is a damned good Wilco record, and a damned good Beatles record as well.

More by Annie Holub


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