Wilco - A Ghost Is Born

Although recently Wilco have recorded two albums of new discovered Woody Gutherie songs with our very own Billy Bragg, "A Ghost Is Born" is Wilco's fifth studio album. The release date was put back a little because chief songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Jeff Tweedy booked himself into rehab to treat his addiction to painkillers. This album is notable for the absence of Jay Bennett who was Tweedy's songwriting partner. Life in Wilco has been tough but it's always a pleasure to hear new material from them. Produced by the band themselves and Jim O'Rourke who is featured on the album quite prominently.

"Spiders (Kidsmoke)" has a typical country rock intro which is heavy on the bass. The keyboard flourishes adds extra depth. Tweedy's mumbled vocal reminds me a lot of E from Eels. The low key production works effectively on this sprawling ten minute long mini epic. If you love guitar solos (many of which are intentionally off kilter) then this track will surely appeal to you. The lyrics open up into a world of confusion and turmoil, but are genuinely moving rather than depressing. A gentle guitar strum and simply beautiful piano make "Handshake Drugs" a finely crafted song, commercial and retro but in an interesting way.  The lyrics "I looked like someone I used to know" is obviously autobiographical.

The sexual ambiguity of "Company In My Back" has a more stripped down semi-acoustic sound. The pleasant moments of joy are played with spirit, but with an undercurrent of sadness. Mixing the piano driven pop rock of Ben Folds Five with the melody of the Beatles is the inquisitive little ditty "Theologians". All though this track has a strong sense of the 1970s with and acute sense of rock. The vocals are falsetto, the guitars knock out riffs a plenty and is one of the poppiest moments on the album.

"A Ghost Is Born" shows Wilco maturing gradually with a cathartic exercise of heart warming music and lyrical wonderment.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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