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Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Wilco - I'm the Man Who Loves You

Ooh, they're just like the Sugababes. Oh, alright, not really, but Wilco do have more in common with the current chart-toppers than you might think; not only has their lineup changed drastically in the last few years, but 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot', the five-piece's fourth album, was meant to come out some time last year but for the fact that Warners saw fit to drop them, leading to an explosion of goodwill and clamour for material that, even in the wake of its excellent predecessor, '99's 'Summerteeth', Jeff Tweedy and co. had never known before. Consequently, now that this has seen the light of day, it'd seem more than reasonable for them to be looking forward to the greatest success of their career. And rightly so.

See, although Wilco are destined to forever be tarred with the brush - no bad thing in itself - 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot' is in the same way that 'Original Pirate Material' is a garage album. In other words, it takes a fairly well-defined starting point and scribbles quite spectacularly over it. The epic qualities of opener 'I Am Trying To Break Your Heart' once again recall the recent stirrings of Mercury Rev, while, later, 'I'm The Man Who Loves You' veers dizzingly from restrained blues to more-White-Stripes-than-So-Solid garage and 'Heavy Metal Drummer' even bounces on an almost Mirwais-style electronic backing, yet, throughout, there's a fabulous stylistic consistency built up around Leroy Bach's gorgeous piano trilling, waves of brushed guitar melancholia, and Tweedy's wounded, worldly vocals. The increasingly experimental 'Poor Places' indicates the depth of his suffering better than most, but often here he's singing about adult anguish one way or another, whether it's lovers in tears ('Jesus, etc.') or lost souls ('Kamera'). In short, you probably wouldn't want to be him.

Except, of course, that with his band he's produced a work of rare beauty, and one with much more than could have been expected in its favour thanks to the delay. Sadly, titles like 'War On War' and 'Ashes Of American Flags' have acquired an unwanted poignancy but, more happily, collaborator Jim O'Rourke is very much in vogue thanks to the emergence of his best work yet, 'Insignificance'. Oh, and 'Reservations' sounds a lot like the hotly-tipped Athlete's 'Westside'. The most worth-the-wait long-awaited album in the world... ever? Could be...

Iain Moffat

reviewed on 30.apr.02