Do you ever stand in front of that misshapen pile of CD’s you own and wonder what the hell to put on? You know you should put on a record, but God, where to begin and who can be bothered choosing something, pulling out the sleeve, putting the thing on the platter, carefully placing the needle. Don’t get me wrong, I love the vinyl ritual, but sometimes you just want easy access to good sounds, right?
My CD collection isn’t massive. I’ve culled it down to the absolute essentials so everything in there is good to great. Compared to my vinyl collection, I treat my CD’s like an albino brother who ran away, became a drug addict and is now a shame on the family name.
What’s my point here? Well, I play about 10 of those albino CD’s on a regular basis: Dr. Dre, 2001; T.Rex, The Slider; Dead Moon, Echoes Of The Past come to mind. Aside from compilations like the Can’t Stop It! series, anything from the Soul Jazz label and the Anthology Of American Folk Music, my most listened CD is Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco.
Now hang on. Keep reading, I can explain. It’s a masterpiece. Yeah I know every Pitchfork-touting nerd in town thinks that, but it’s true dudes. I’m up to my elbows in assignments at the moment and YHF is my best friend. We laugh, we cry, we drink!
I stumbled across Wilco at the 2003 Auckland Big Day Out. They played mid afternoon on one of the small stages to a ridiculously small audience. I didn’t know anything about them then but I was sold. Actually, I forgot about them until I saw Sam Jones’ I Am Trying To Break Your Heart documentary on the making (and breaking, and fighting, etc) of the album. I was sold all over again.
The reason I'm garbling about Wilco is last month I had the opportunity to meet drummer Glen Kotche and guitarist Nels Cline at the Melbourne International Jazz Festival. They’re two of the nicest guys going. I said to Glenn, ‘I dig your band’ and he was like, ‘thanks.’ I didn’t tell him that his percussion intro to the song I Am Trying To Break Your Heart is one of my favourite opening sequences ever. Nels and Glenn played as a duo at Bennett’s Lane later that night and were as far removed from Wilco as your imagination can stretch.
It’s no secret that YHF is a document of a band at the height of its powers. If you’ve heard the demos floating around the Internet you can appreciate just how much Wilco crafted the songs and the mastery of Jim O’Rourke’s mix. The little things he incorporates totally make the record. He is absolute key here.
This is the only Wilco album I own. I’ve heard Summerteeth and A Ghost Is Born, but honestly, I’m happy for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot to be entirely representative of the Wilco I know and love.