85.) Wilco - A Ghost Is Born (2004)
Being a devout Wilco fan - and admitted Wilco apologist - I have always managed to find something to love about each and every one of their records, but I don't understand the hindsight scorn leveled at A Ghost is Born.
Released after their ridiculously brilliant Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, A Ghost is Born had a lot to prove and that it's a bit of a comedown from that record is not necessarily a bad thing. Having said that I'm not sure A Ghost is Born is a worse record, it's just different. Whereas Yankee certainly had an express theme and was sequenced to play as a single entity, Ghost is a bit all over the map. People have called it uneven, I'd say unfocused, but even so all the songs are great.
A Ghost Is Born was something of a middle ground between the classic rock of Summerteeth and the experimentation of Yankee. Sure there are a lot of guitar solos, but they're fucking great. They don't feel forced - they're integral to the success of early tracks like "At Least That's What She Said" and "Muzzle of Bees."
A Ghost Is Born also has some of the bands most accessible (in a good way) moments. I'm thinking specifically about "Hummingbird", "Handshake Drugs" and "Company In My Back."
And then there's the wild cards. "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" and "Less Than You Think."
I wholly support the former and tolerate the latter.
I think "Spiders" is a really great song. For a band who did a lot of unexpected things on Yankee, "Spiders" was a left turn no one saw coming - a ten minute krautrock jam with a circuitous hook that goes on, seemingly, forever. On the A Ghost Is Born tour, "Spiders" was a highlight of the shows and I will always remember it fondly.
As for "Less Than You Think" which concluded with nearly twelve minutes of noise...what can you do? I remember when the record came out I said I thought it was Jeff Tweedy railing against the death of the mixtape. Had you wanted "Less Than You Think" on your mix, you could do it easily with a cassette - just hack of that last twelve minutes, but you couldn't do that on a mix CD or ipod playlist. As someone who still laments the loss of the mixtape, I still like to think that's the truth (even though it's more than likely not - Tweedy's stated it was supposed to be the aural equivalent of the migraines that forced him to abuse pharmaceutical drugs).
I happen to love the way A Ghost Is Born ends, not with twelve minutes of noise but with a nice inoffensive two and half minutes of pure pop bliss (and a song lamenting the record industry and the radio, a hint that maybe my mix tape theory holds some water) "The Late Greats." That's Wilco for you. And I will more than likely love them forever. No matter what they do.
Posted by Pat Driscoll