I’ve been writing this blog for a while now. It will no doubt amaze some of my closest friends that I haven’t written anything about Wilco as yet given my complete obsession with the band. I think they think that whenever I get into a conversation about music I will somehow swing it around to Wilco, and invariably they are right. But this band mean so much to me both as a music fan and a musician. I guess if I was being honest, my favourite Wilco album for music alone is ‘A Ghost Is Born’ but I have chosen to write about Yankee Hotel Foxtrot because it is probably the most important album that I have in my collection. It’s precious. It’s tatty now, but precious all the same. The Antiques Roadshow aren’t going to value it greatly, but to me its priceless.
I first got into Wilco when I randomly saw them on some dodgy German sky channel. I was about 18 – no comment on what I was doing on dodgy German sky tv channels! Anyways, I stumbled upon them live at some German fesitval and decided the next day to buy whatever album I could get. That happened to be Summerteeth and soon it was my favourite album in my collection. ‘She’s A Jar’, ‘How To Fight Loneliness’, ‘Shot In The Arm’ and ‘Via Chicago’ are still some of my favourite songs. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot wasn’t released for another 4 years, which I guess for most bands is a long break between records but in the case of Wilco, the time between records was prolonged by arguments with their record label about the marketability of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which ultimately lead to the band being dropped by their label. It’s a really fascinating story and insight into the world of music, which is documented in the brilliant film ‘I Am Trying To Break Your Heart’. Anyways, the album was released on the bands website initially and then released on record once they had tied up a new label – ironically another subsiduary of the same major that had dropped them previously! When I first put Yankee Hotel Foxtrot on the stereo I got a bit of a fright. So detached from its predecessor was this album that I couldn’t get my head around it at first. This album introduced me to the idea of noise music. Songs taken apart and rebuilt again and again. Layered beyond belief. Constructed then deconstructed and rebuilt. Folk songs masked by static, bleeps, clicks and all sorts of weirdness. And I fell in love with it. This album opened my eyes both as a music fan and a musician. From a music fan perspective, I started exploring more diverse music, straying from the commercial, ignoring music mags and trying to find my own path. I rarely buy a music mag these days and value the opinions of those who write blogs or online magazines more highly than anything Q, NME or Uncut could ever offer. I like to read about Micah P Hinson, I like to hear about the Avett Brothers, I love exploring and finding bands because somebody put together a playlist on their myspace page or blog. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot shaped the way I not only search for music but indeed the type of music I search for. As a musician, it simply taught me that the simplest of songs can be made interesting using the simplest of techniques. I love hearing songs of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot played on the acoustic guitar and hearing where they originated, but I love the fact that on record they are so busy with so much going on – but you don’t always notice that. It’s quite simply a masterpiece. I love it from start to finish and I can honestly say that if you ever see a better song live than ‘I Am Trying To Break Your Heart’ with its complex drumming and waves of noise then I would be surprised. This record made me who I am in so many ways. I never ever tire of it. Never will.