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Old 11-18-2008, 03:52 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (CD vs. LP)

I would start a journal, but I don't think I am worthy as of yet. Also, this is one of two reviews I'm interested in doing, as I just recently got a copy of Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot on LP (my stereo ate my CD copy, and it is now badly scratched). The same fate befell Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, thus I purchased that on vinyl as well (this is my second review).

Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot [Nonesuch; 2002]




I Am Trying to Break Your Heart [side 1]
Kamera
Radio Cure
War on War [side 2]
Jesus, etc
Ashes of American Flags
Heavy Metal Drummer [side 3]
I'm the Man Who Loves You
Pot Kettle Black
Poor Places [side 4]
Reservations

Click to listen 1, 2, 3, 4
*The song order in these four parts does not coincide with the four sides of the LP.
THE ALBUM
Jim O'Rourke, whom has produced Stereolab and collaborated with Sonic Youth in the past, took Wilco's early demos and turned them into an album that sticks the listener inside an old walkie-talkie receiving Wilco's songs from the other end. Hearing no singles, Reprise asked Wilco to reconsider their effort. Luckily, Wilco ignored the bully and allowed Nonesuch to spread their genius. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is a sometimes disorienting, often heart-wrenching, many other times optimistic and grown up, and always sprawling album that is worthy of all its praise. While not perfect, it comes damn close, and will hopefully be remembered as a classic of our times.

PACKAGING
Normally there isn't a big difference between an LP and CD copy of a recent album, except for the two-sided disk bit. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is, however, four sides (2 disks), spanning only 11 tracks and 50 minutes. How this affects the continuity of the album is detailed in subsequent paragraphs. The package itself comes with a CD copy, which definitely hikes the price by about ten dollars, for a total of CAD$28.99. Perhaps this was a good deal when the record was initially released, but considering that most recent LPs simply come with a digital download of the album, Yankee's current packaging feels too archaic and expensive for today's standards.

On the flip side (no pun intended), the cover art and vinyl sleeves are a million miles more evocative than its CD booklet counterparts. For an album that makes being part of a sprawling municipality its main artistic motif, this matters. The solid, cream-coloured cover also feels much more solid and important as it is supported by two 180 gram vinyls. None of this matters to the iTunes generation, but for those of us who experience music with all of our senses (except for taste, probably), the artistic direction and weight of the album is surely going to strike a chord.

CD:7.8 LP: 8.9

CONTINUITY

Yankee Hotel is one of those albums one could listen to in bits and pieces or from beginning to end and arguably get the same experience. Although the track progression feels natural, I will continue to argue that the album makes more sense as an often divided record. Side One is the side that deals with personal imperfection. Side Two is the extrovert and socially aware side. Side three, with its light-hearted, jumpy, rocking songs is the party side, and Side four is a return to form: slow and conclusive.

Side one, comprised of I Am Trying to Break your Heart, Kamera and Radio Cure, is a slowly winding introduction to the album, and probably the first reason why Reprise wouldn't release it. The three tracks in side one are songs about being damaged goods, sometimes accepting the fact and living on, other times not so much; other times finding a coping mechanism in the happiness of another.

Side two is an extrovert look at life, dealing with one's life (or perhaps the inevitability of personal and world conflict) as a "war on war" (War on War.) On Jesus, Etc, the character (assuming it's been the same throughout the preceding songs), seems to have gotten used to his demons and has now taken to noticing another individual's pain, perhaps the same character as in Radio Cure. Finally, on Ashes of American Flags, the extrovert outlook now encompasses a social commentary, which doubles as a confession.

The first two tracks of side three are unlike anything else thematically in the album. Heavy Metal Drummer is a jumpy, nostalgic song, while I'm the Man Who Loves You is a rocking, party-perfect song that deals with a character wishing that he could express himself to an individual he loves. Pot Kettle Black, while likewise upbeat, feels more like a side two effort.

Side four only has two songs: Poor Places (the weakest link) and Reservations, a track that reverts to the more personal and flawed character of side one. The eleven tracks could easily create a narrative, but I don't think this is what Jeff Tweedy intended. Thus the four LP division makes sense. Unfortunately, It's going to be a pain for some to have to flip two 180 gram vinyls every three songs. The only reason one would buy this album in LP form is if they consider Wilco's early decade effort a modern classic, or if one collects vinyls. I do both, which makes me feel good about my purchase. For everyone else, stick to the CD version.

CD/LP: 9.2

OVERALL
The story behind the album is classic triumph-over-evil. Its CD packaging may be practical, but the LP is a statement, creating an enigmatic cover that will make fans proud to wear on t-shirts when the album reaches cult-classic status. The music within is diverse, surprising, and personal, catering to many tastes. Though one could listen to the album from beginning to end without interruptions and get the same fundamental experience from those who must pause every three songs, the four side division makes more thematic sense, however impractical.

CD: 8.5 LP: 9.0

Last edited by Roygbiv; 11-18-2008 at 06:34 PM.
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Old 11-18-2008, 05:10 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Good review, this is easily my favorite Wilco album.
I used to have it on vinyl but my record player broke.
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Old 11-18-2008, 05:22 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I have never heard this album but I have heard it mentioned many times. Is it really that good?
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Old 11-18-2008, 05:26 PM   #4 (permalink)
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In a word: No

I really can't put into words how much I hate this album, the fact that they call this reverby slop Alt Country sickens me. I throw up a little everytime I hear their name

No offense to anyone, I just REALLY hate this album

If you like it: good for you
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Old 11-18-2008, 05:42 PM   #5 (permalink)
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---reverby slop Alt Country--- that's enough for me to stay well clear . Oh yeah-welcome back fella.
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Old 11-18-2008, 05:57 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Thanks, good to be back
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Old 11-18-2008, 06:03 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I agree, I find it dreadfully boring.
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Old 11-18-2008, 06:30 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jackhammer View Post
---reverby slop Alt Country--- that's enough for me to stay well clear . Oh yeah-welcome back fella.
I'd say check out the iTunes store sample clips (they're free!) or the youtube clips I posted above. You say you have a diverse taste in music so do check it out before joining in on the dislike.

Never judge an album by the hateful words of others.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyler Durden View Post
Good review, this is easily my favorite Wilco album.
I used to have it on vinyl but my record player broke.
I'm guessing you sold it, then.

No matter, an Audio Technica automatic turntable is about $99 (that's the price I bought it for in Canadian dollars), so you shouldn't have a hard time getting another.
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Old 11-19-2008, 05:15 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I don't love this album like some, and I don't hate it either. I just have to be in a real mellow mood to listen to it. That said there are some really good songs on it.
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Old 11-20-2008, 12:07 AM   #10 (permalink)
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It's different for everyone, which is why I think others shouldn't be put down because someone else says it's crap, especially if the individuals in question prefer the harder stuff.
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