Classic Recordings: Wilco – Summerteeth

Wilco Summerteeth album artwork

Wilco – Summerteeth

Nonesuch – (Vinyl)

By Paul Rigby

Wilco was created on the wreckage of another, highly respected, group, Uncle Tupelo in 1994 – a roots-based outfit. Two factions emerged from the experience. Singer/songwriter, Jay Farrar, left to form Son Volt while Jeff Tweedy created Wilco. Wilco’s first two albums moved from country rock to an amalgam of pop, soul and some psychedelia leaving the expectations of this, the band’s third outing in 1999, flailing a little. What emerged, however, was a move away from strict country or roots and more towards a classic pop feel. Strings and harmonies replaced that country vibe and an introverted application to Tweedy’s own song-writing style emerged lending a more serious note to his lyrics.

Just hear the fractured and discordant tales of human relationships to see how much more settled Tweedy is as a songwriter. His targets are more defined and his songs are now multi-layered, mixing dark and light, asking the listener to pause for thought.

It’s this dark, contemplative combination mixed with the sweet melodies that provides an edge all of its own. Hence, you quickly learn not to take each song on face value. You enter each track a little warily, like a child walking into a secret garden. It’s a place of beauty and wonder but you never know what might be lurking around the corner of the next hedge, so your heartbeat rises and you remain on your guard.

Often an initially innocent song will take a dark, sometimes psychopathic, turn, revealing the singer to be slightly unhinged only to quickly reassure you is that all is well – leaving the listener feeling suspicious of the real truth. All the time, however, you’re carried along by groovy, catchy, pop hooks so you never feel like leaving the ride.

Summerteeth was a worthy third album for the group. It kept the listener guessing, a difficult trick to pull off well. In addition, it did what third albums should do – showed a steady improvement, a natural evolution, a growth in style and a sense of exploration.

Stand-out track: She’s A Jar

A song to display your speaker’s midrange qualities as it tries to come to grips with this track’s excellent vocal harmonies and strings. This sequence also imposes exacting standards on any speaker’s separation capabilities. Can you hear each voice as a separate entity if you concentrate enough? Or is the midrange a single clump?

Stand-out track: I Can’t Stand It

It might initially appear to offer basic rocking rhythms but the excellent mastering on the song can result in a demanding performance from your bass driver and an examination of how good your speaker’s crossover reacts to the necessary co-operation between bass and midrange.

Tracklisting

Can’t Stand It
She’s a Jar
Shot in the Arm
We’re Just Friends
I’m Always in Love
Nothing’s evergonnastandinmyway (Again)
Pieholden Suite
How to Flight Loneliness
Vica Chicago
ELT
My Darling
When you Wake up Feeling Old
Summer Teeth
In Future Age
Hidden Track
Hidden Track
Hidden Track

1 Comment

  • Paul Connop says:

    One of the finest bands on the planet without doubt. Purchased a Zep mini yesterday for the kitchen. First play just had to be Wilco – ‘Being there’. I think few Wilco fans would disagree that it’s still their finest hour.

    The mini? Stunning design with a sound to match. Wonderful. Listened to virtually everything
    on the market in this price bracket and without doubt made the right choice on every level.

    Next stop… MM1′s!

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