George Starostin's Reviews



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A. M.

<> (05.08.2005)

Simple, straight forward country rock fare. This album pales in insignificance when compared to later albums. A.M has none of the experimental side of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or Summerteeth and the melodies and hooks arent as good either. It really shows how far this band have come from a straight forward country rock act to America's greatest band! I would give it 6/10.


Gianni Martinelli <> (24.02.2006)

"Dreamer in my dreams" has the same melody and the same arrangement of The Rolling Stones' "Country honk", doesn't it, George? Wonderful album, anyway. American rock music still sits on Brian Wilson's knees after all these years...


Bob Josef <> (01.02.2006)

I took a chance on this one because I had read somewhere that it bears a resemblance to Pet Sounds. Well, it doesn't really, except that there is a certain melancholy that pervades the atmosphere here, like on PS. But the ballads are a lot more angsty in a 90's sort of way ("Via Chicago") that it can be a bit of a chore to sit through. The only really Brian Wilson moment I hear is the harmonies on "Pieholden Suite," but I hear a lot of other influences all over the place: Nilsson ("Pieholden," again), John Lennon ("My Darling"), Bono ("How to Fight Loneliness"), Elvis Costello ("Candy Floss"). It's a very interesting album, but it is tough to assimilate. The song that sticks with me the most after it's all done is "A Shot in the Arm." Extremely catchy, and a very obvious single, although I don't know if the alternate version is "alternate" enough to deserve inclusion. I do like the overall vibe of the album, but I'm not sure if I want to pick up any more Wilco. It seems that no two albums by them sound alike!


David Dickson <> (02.10.2005)

"Supposedly, though, I'm liking it all for the wrong reasons."

Nosir! Nononononooooooooooo. You're liking it for all the RIGHT reasons, never you worry. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is a classic not for its experimentation, or its weird shit, or its "OK Computer/Kid A/Flaming Lips- ish qualities", but for the only reason any album SHOULD be a masterpiece. . .


. . Or is it? Well, come to think of it, there IS something else going on here, something that goes on with any 10-worthy album. Something one could call the "substance/style" dichotomy, but which I rather like to dub the "cake/icing." Or, in a more technical sense, the "powder/spark."

Y'see, great albums have great material--great INTELLECTUAL ideas. The melody, the chord changes, the way the song is planned out--these qualities that the left brain has command over. Bob Dylan, for example, is a master of these parts of the creative process, as are the Beatles. Ergo the basic, bare-bones songs on this album. But would Dylan be the same, really, without the roughed-up, scuffed-up, witty lyrical earthiness he has? And would the Beatles be the same without their cleverness for great arrangements and instrumental mix-match? For that matter, would Led Zeppelin be the same without their volume? Metallica? Lynyrd Skynyrd?

THAT'S the question we've all got to ask ourselves. Great songs are one thing. They are the fuel for the fire, the "powder," if you will, for the explosion that represents the listener's appreciation for the album. But powder can't do much if it just sits on itself without a catalyst. It can be dangerous-looking, impressively measured and manufactured, but not really appreciated without something to spark it off, make us stand up and notice.

And that's what role I think the experimentative weird stuff does on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. It makes us stand up and notice. It brings our attention to already-good songs that, quite frankly, are great on their own, but just not- very-attention-grabbing. Lest we forget, this band was originally inspired by Gram Parsons, not exactly the most firey attention-grabbing guy on the face of the cosmos. Probably part of the reason Mark Prindle hates 'im so much. . . .

Ahem. . . the songs? The substance, the cake, the powder, and the important part, the foundation for one helluvan album, and 80% of the reason for its greatness. Ergo, without the experimentation, it would be around an 8 out of 10. The experimentation is the style, the icing, the spark, and the rest of the reason for its greatness. Heck, while we're on the cake analogy, if this album is a rich chocolatey 4-inch devil's food with even tastier glaze thinly drizzled on top, OK Computer is a wafer-thin pumpernickel cake with too little batter, but two inches of vanilla icing smothering it. Don't get me wrong, they're both equally tasty, but Wilco are far finer songwriters than those blokes across the ocean, in my opinion. Without the weird crap, OK Computer would be somewhat less than nothing.

What Wilco have proved here is that experimentation need not be non- commercial. To me, it augments the songs naturally and doesn't at all call attention to itself. Rather, it calls attention to the SONGS, and that's really all that matters. Plus the album has, as of this date, gone double platinum in the States. And really, it deserved to--how could "I'm the Man Who Loves You" NOT have been a hit? I mean, it was, on college stations, but then again, "Wave of Mutilation" is also a hit on college stations.

For my part, the backstory behind this album (Evil music execs try to quash creativity under their capitalist yaddledaddle blah blah blah) nearly made me want to avoid this album like the plague for all time. It sounded like Doolittle all over again, or even worse, like Rolling Stone ramblings on bad crack. And you KNOW how I hate bad crack. But ignore my bad humor--Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is a classic, and I'm glad I picked it up. Ignore the album's backstory--it's not the reason why this album is so nearly-perfect. It's the cake, and to a lesser extent, the icing.

Man, I'm hungry.

Special author note: Yeah yeah yeah and all, but the songs on Being There are better anyway. :)]

Greg Linhares <> (04.10.2005)

Thanks for your YHF review -- I was beginning to worry that I was the only person around who liked Summerteeth more than YHF. I was also feeling a little bit guilty/not "hip" enough for getting occasionally bored with some of the sonic textures on this record, so thanks for the reaffirmation... don't get me wrong though, I likes me some Tweedy. As a native of metro St. Louis just like Mr. Tweedy, it is pretty cool to hear him in "Heavy Metal Drummer" talk about seeing heavy metal bands on the Landing in the summer... I DID that! I KNOW that feeling! We even had a band in St. Louis called "Broken Toyz". Yes, with a Z! They even got signed to a major label -- and had to change their name because another major label act had that same name! You can't make stuff like that up. Only in the late '80s folks. Anyway, it sure is fun to hear stuff you've done and places you've been name-checked in songs by cool songwriters like Mr. Tweedy here. I also like the way this record gives you so much of a sonic barrage early on, drawing you into that sound so much that something like "I'm the one who loves you", with its positively dissonant lead guitar, sounds totally poppy in contrast by the time it comes around. So, even if I am not necessarily a huge fan of some of the texturing, it sure can draw you in while you're not looking, and I'll certainly take an occasionally overdone experiment like this over 99% of what passes for music on major American FM radio anyday. An 8.5 out of 10 in my book.

Zach Dobson <> (05.01.2006)

I randomly encountered your Yankee Hotel Foxtrot review and there were a few things I couldn't let go unsaid. First of all, I'm about 98% sure that nothing on the album was written about 9/11. The album was finished about a year before the the actual release date of 4/23/2002, and 9/11 was in 2001. And Marina City is just a well-known Chicago landmark, at least to their core audience, and I highly doubt that they were alluding to the Twin Towers.

Also, I think your interpretation of a line in 'Heavy Metal Drummer' is off. "Playing KISS covers, beautiful and stoned." I don't think he's saying that KISS is beautiful, I think he's saying that the blissful ignorance of youth is beautiful.

As for the sonic experimentation is concerned, yeah, I do think it's a little overdone. But anyone who created anything worthwhile did some experimentation. If you fault them for it, you must fault everyone who has or will do it, including The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. Besides, that is why God created the track forward button. I think I've said enough. I'm sure you get this a lot, so I'll end it here.

Special author note: Well, er, the review never implied that the album was about 9/11, and the sentence never accused him of saying that KISS is beautiful, and I've never ever faulted Wilco for doing some experimentation - but other than that, thanks a lot for commenting anyway.]


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