A Ghost Is Born

A Ghost Is Born

4.5 8
by Wilco

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At a point where a good many of his peers have shifted into coasting mode, Jeff Tweedy continues to tinker under Wilco's hood, grafting on and sawing off seemingly entrenched elements with surprising ease. And while the changes manifested on A Ghost Is Born are more evolutionary than revolutionary, the fact that Tweedy continues to


At a point where a good many of his peers have shifted into coasting mode, Jeff Tweedy continues to tinker under Wilco's hood, grafting on and sawing off seemingly entrenched elements with surprising ease. And while the changes manifested on A Ghost Is Born are more evolutionary than revolutionary, the fact that Tweedy continues to see his band as a work in progress makes for plenty of welcome surprises. A Ghost Is Born has a few things in common with its critically acclaimed predecessor, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, chiefly the willingness to ignore the strictures of standard arrangement (not to mention the clock on the wall). Those two elements dovetail beautifully in the ten-minute "Spiders (Kidsmoke)," on which Tweedy splices a snaky Television-styled guitar figure onto an insistent Kraut-rock rhythm to great effect. There's an overall uptick in instrumental freakouts, both extended and compact: After a short, simple intro, the 15-minute "Less than You Think" segues into a static lullaby that owes as much to Terry Riley as Tweedy's embryonic work did to the Carter Family, while the initially lulling "At Least That's What You Said" culminates in a fusillade of ragged melodic shards that screams "duck and cover." That aggression is offset by a lingering delicacy, one that lends an appropriately wraithlike tone to songs like the fine-spun "Muzzle of Bees" and the deceptively jaunty "Hummingbird," which kicks off with some sweet keyboard/strings interplay that could pass for the theme from some hazily remembered '70s TV series. A Ghost Is Born may not be the perfect summer soundtrack, but it's laced with sonic ideas that will last long after those tan lines fade into memory.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Mark Deming
It's hard not to wonder if Wilco's breakthrough 2002 release, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, would have been such a critical success and so eagerly embraced by the indie rock community if it hadn't become such a cause célèbre thanks to the band being unceremoniously dropped by Reprise Records, and then signed by Nonesuch after the album had become a hot item on the Internet. Much of the critical reaction to the album, while almost uniformly enthusiastic (and rightly so), had an odd undertow that suggested the writers were not especially familiar with Wilco's body of work, registering a frequent sense of surprise that an "alt-country" band would make such an adventurous album while ignoring the creative shape-shifting that had been so much a part of Jeff Tweedy and company's approach on Being There and Summerteeth. The irony is that 2004's A Ghost Is Born, the eagerly awaited follow-up to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, is also the Wilco album with the strongest stylistic link to its immediate predecessor, as if their new fans are being given a moment to catch up. A Ghost Is Born hardly sounds like a retread of YHF, but the languid, ghostly song structures, the periodic forays into dissonance, and the pained, hesitant vocals from Jeff Tweedy that were so much a part of that album also take center stage here. But while much of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot had a cool and slightly removed feeling, A Ghost Is Born is considerably warmer and more organic; the extended instrumental breaks in several of the songs (two cuts are over ten minutes long) sound more like a group in full flight than the Pro Tools-assembled structures of YHF. And while Wilco's former secret weapon, Jay Bennett, is now out of the picture, the rest of the group (especially multi-instrumentalist Leroy Bach, keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen, and guitarist/co-producer Jim O'Rourke) fill the gaps with admirable grace and strength. If A Ghost Is Born has a flaw, it's in the songwriting; while this album is a "grower" if there ever was one, revealing more of its unexpected complexities with each spin, there are no songs here as immediately engaging as "War on War," "Heavy Metal Drummer," or "I'm the Man Who Loves You" from YHF, and while "Hummingbirds," "Handshake Drugs," and "Wishful Thinking" are tuneful and charming, they lack the resonance and emotional impact of Tweedy's strongest work. And the album's most purely enjoyable tune, the witty "The Late Greats," closes out the disc after the 15-minute drone dirge of "Less Than You Think," dramatically blunting its effectiveness. A Ghost Is Born confirms what old fans and recent converts already know -- that Wilco is one of America's most interesting and imaginative bands -- and it's brave and compelling listening. But if you're expecting another genre-defying masterpiece, well, maybe we'll get one of those next time.
Tracks - Will Hermes
Tweedy and crew are succeeding, on their own terms -- there's really no one making better rock records.

Product Details

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Wilco   Primary Artist
Jim O'Rourke   Organ,Synthesizer,Acoustic Guitar,Bass,Piano,Bass Guitar,Electric Guitar,ARP,Loops,Arp 2600
John Stirratt   Synthesizer,Acoustic Guitar,Bass,Piano,Bass Guitar,Electric Guitar,Background Vocals,Loops
Jeff Tweedy   Synthesizer,Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Vocals,12-string Guitar,Loops,Acoustic Bass,Guitar (Baritone)
Leroy Bach   Organ,Synthesizer,Acoustic Guitar,Bass,Piano,Electric Guitar,Vibes,Loops
Glenn Kotche   Synthesizer,Percussion,Drums,Hammered Dulcimer,Loops
Mike Jorgensen   Synthesizer,Piano,Keyboards,farfisa organ,Rocksichord,Stylophone
Tim Barnes   Percussion
Frankie Montuoro   Hammered Dulcimer
Karen Waltuch   Viola

Technical Credits

Jim O'Rourke   Composer,Producer,Engineer,Audio Production
Christopher Shaw   Engineer
John Stirratt   Composer
Jeff Tweedy   Composer
Wilco   Producer,Audio Production
Leroy Bach   Composer
Glenn Kotche   Composer
Mike Jorgensen   Composer,Engineer
Gladys Nilsson   Drawing

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A Ghost Is Born 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
AGIB sees Wilco moving away from their electronic explorations on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot to some more straightforward guitar work; Songs like At Least That's What You Said echo Neil Young, while others are very Beatlesque. This is another strong record, I highly recommend!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have only listened to the album a few times so far and can already see its another great Wilco album. Of course different in its own ways from the previous. There are definitely some songs that just jump out the first time I listened. Hummingbird (which they played and sounded great on Letterman), Spiders, and Handshake Drugs. This is an preliminary review but I can tell already after a few more entire plays of the album, it will be obvious from all the songs that they have done it again....that thing that Wilco can do when they make music. Its musical genius at its most extraordinary. Definitely one to add to the collection. Even if you are not a big fan, give it a chance. It's a must have!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This album is just as good as YHF, but more complete as an album. The great songs may not be as great, but song 3 (Spiders) is a masterpiece of a song. The guitars scream, and the synthesizers drop some catchy beats. Highly recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this album has totally changed my view of how todays music should sound. the first time i heard the cd, i thought, this is good, but not quite YHF. then i heard it a couple more times, and before i knew it, i couldn't stop playing it. just as in their earlier work, tweedy mixes neil young-esque solo guitar with simple melodies that just come together into a masterpiece. the piano and percussion come in and top it right off. the cd still has its happy tunes like YHF's "camera" and "heavy metal drummer," in new tunes like "handshake drugs", "Late Greats" "theologians" and "hummingbird", as well as heartfelt balads like "I am trying to break your heart" and "radio cure" in the new tunes "at least thats what you said" and "wishful thinking", along with some fantastic purely wilco songs like the ten minute-plus "spiders" and catchy "company in my back". i think overall this is one of the most original albums i have ever listened to, and it will go down as one the most underrated pieces of art of this generation.
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