Wilco, A Ghost Is Born
Heading further into uncharted territory
In the wake of their popular and artistic breakthrough on 2002′s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco headed even further into uncharted territory on A Ghost Is Born, largely eschewing conventional songcraft in favor of conceptual expressionism. By this point, only leader Jeff Tweedy and bassist John Stirratt remained from the early days; the rest of the band consisted of drummer Glenn Kotche, multi-instrumentalist Leroy Bach and keyboardist Mikael Jorgenson, but an even larger presence on A Ghost Is Born was experimental musician Jim O’Rourke, who co-produced the album with the band and steered the proceedings toward his free-noise background. At the extreme end of the spectrum are “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” and “Less Than You Think,” which clock in at 10 and 15 minutes, respectively; the former is difficult to follow despite intriguing lyrics, while the latter devolves into an impenetrable barrage of synthesized squalls. Not everything is so far out: “I’m A Wheel” is two and a half minutes of tight, clean, straight-up rock ‘n’ roll, and the piano-based pop gem “Theologians” harks back to the band’s Summerteeth heyday. If the result is an uneven collection, that didn’t seem to matter to music industry voters who gave Wilco their first-ever Grammy, for Best Alternative Music Album.