An Instant Classic is Born?

Boasting equal parts Beatles-esque invention, Sonic Youth recklessness, and Neil Young fuzz-guitar solos, along with an invigorated passion for long instrumental diversions and some of Jeff Tweedy’s most provocative lyrics, A Ghost is Born surpasses my hopes for a grand follow-up to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I sat down and listened to it at rock-concert volume last night, and discovered that Wilco is far more confident, bolder, and possessed of a more cohesive vision on this album than on YHF.

Poetry, cryptic wordplay, confoundingly impenetrable imagery, and echoes of scripture weave their way through this playful, energetic, melancholy, and sometimes just plain weird piece of work.

What an album.

There are a few songs that are heavy with the influence of John Lennon, and the next-to-last track will test the endurance of even the die-hard Wilco fans. But if you’ve been paying attention to the lyrics, I think that almost ten-minute blast of noise makes poetic sense. In fact, Tweedy even prophesies its arrival: “It’s high-pitched and it hums… lightly tapping a high-pitched drum.” It might be a musical expression of the mystery beyond the confines and tortures of this life. Or it might just be one of Tweedy’s famous migraines made manifest in sound.

A Ghost is Born is a descendant of YHF more than Being There in its lyrical cohesion, and Tweedy’s exploring exciting territory about the soul, resisting worldly temptation, and the joys of enduring the hardships of love with one’s eyes on the eternal goal. The title is perfect.

There are a few songs that are quickly becoming my favorite Wilco tracks ever: “Muzzle of Bees” is enthralling and elevating; “Hummingbird” is pristine pop transcendance; “Wishful Thinking” is one of their most straightforwardly inspiring songs. Some of this stuff will translate into a thrilling live show, I’ve no doubt.

I’ll say more when I get a review together this weekend. Suffice to say that I like it better than even the rave reviews suggested I would.

That’s three great albums I’ve heard this year. Not bad.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet has two passions: writing fiction, and celebrating art — music, cinema, photography, literature — through writing and teaching. He is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” — Through a Screen Darkly. And his four-novel fantasy series, The Auralia Thread, which begins with Auralia's Colors, was published by Random House. He speaks at universities and conferences around the world about understanding art through eyes of faith. He is earning his MFA in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University, where he has worked for 11 years as an editor, writer, and communications project manager. His work has been recognized in The New Yorker, TIME, The Seattle Times, IMAGE, Ravi Zacharias International — and Christianity Today, where he served as a film journalist for more than a decade. He recently began a weekly column called "Listening Closer" for Christ and Pop Culture.