COLUMN: Continuing to come around to Wilco


Ryan Meyer

Ryan Meyer, Columnist

As the weather begins to get warmer (hopefully), I’ve turned to Wilco’s “Summerteeth,” their great third record, released in 1999. Having only really known this album as the one containing “A Shot in the Arm,” I’m delighted to find out its substance goes beyond its most recognizable tracks.

There’s a lot to be said for “A Shot in the Arm,” though. Musically, it’s a great example of a piano-driven rock song, and honestly it’s truly driven by frontman Jeff Tweedy’s relatable, Midwest singing voice.

The rhythm section does a great job of carrying this anthem, as well. The bass chugs and the drums are krautrock-like in their consistency even through the song’s climax. The live version of the track, from 2005’s “Kicking Television, Live in Chicago,” rollicks on the back of overdriven power chords.

There’s many moments on “Summerteeth” where Tweedy’s singing is especially reminiscent of singer Paul Westerberg’s raspy but relatable tone. Neither legend is a great singer, but both are among my favorite and the most recognizable in indie rock history.

I can live without some of the more playful instrumentation in a couple of the more popular songs, like “Can’t Stand It” and “I’m Always in Love,” which are both great but have some keyboard and piano lines that aren’t my favorite.

The second half of this record is really, really strong. Starting from “How to Fight Loneliness” until the conclusion, there’s not a bad song. Besides “23 Seconds of Silence,” which is exactly what it sounds like (or doesn’t sound like?).

“My Darling” begins with the same instrumentation as seen through much of the album, but transcends into a dramatic crescendo of a finish.

“ELT” feels like an obligatory country rocker, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. The lead guitar is good, but hasn’t yet reached the levels of Nels Cline, “Marquee Moon”- inspired wizardry as seen in “Impossible Germany” and the like.

This record is actually a rare case of one I listen to not for the primary reason I usually do, which is guitar. Similar to records by the National that I enjoy, “Summerteeth” is a great listen because of every aspect of every song. The vocal harmonies are great, every lyric is worthy of examination and there’s interesting instrumentation, courtesy of Jay Bennett from what I’ve read.

“Summerteeth” exists in a void that came before the era that spawned some of my favorite bands, like Interpol, the Killers and the aforementioned National, yet after the heydays of others like U2 and the Replacements.

“Summerteeth” is quickly taking hold as one of my favorite records, in a time where I certainly could use some to dive into. As I slowly make my way through Wilco’s extensive discography, I anticipate spending some extra time with this gem.

Ryan Meyer is a senior journalism major. He can be reached at [email protected] or at 581-2812.