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A ghost is born
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on 8 April 2018
all ok
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on 28 February 2015
One of my all time favourite albums. A desert Island disc for it's sheer depth, breadth and play-ability. Wonderful band.

move so slow...steady crushing hand... - company in my back, what a delight that is - beautiful
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on 29 April 2017
the best
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on 8 September 2016
great album excellent service
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on 6 February 2017
Ordered 10:57 Saturday night received 10:00 Sunday morning
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on 12 March 2013
brilliant get it. never get tired of listening to this brilliant album. every track a gem a must have .
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on 8 July 2004
Wilco are a top band, and this album, like so much of what went before, will undoubtedly grow on me and you to the point where I and you think it's brilliant and we cannot understand why we ever thought it was difficult and odd.
So why the review? This album was recommended to me by Amazon (hey I had it on advance for three weeks guys) as a COUNTRY album. This is NOT a country album. Think Fables of the Reconstruction, I Feel Alright or Red Dirt Girl. This album has as much that is COUNTRY about it as they do.
So if you like COUNTRY avoid it like the plague. But if you want some really exciting music that will grow and grow on you then buy this. And then buy Fables of the Reconstruction, I Feel Alright or Red Dirt Girl if you haven't already.
I look forward to coming back to this review and changing the rating to five stars. But I have a feeling that will be a couple of weeks away at least. But that's Wilco for you.
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on 13 June 2008
All the acrimony surrounding the release of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, in which Wilco left Warner/Reprise to resist attempts to make the record more commericially viable, seems bizarre now. For despite its moments of sonic chaos YHF is a great, Beatles-esque, countryfied pop masterpiece with great hooks and immediately indentifiable melodies. `A Ghost is Born', however, is a more genuinely uncompromising prospect, with Sonic Youth member and producer-in-chief Jim O'Rourke adding some of his other band's willfully deconstructive approach to the recording. Where YFH had the air of an album heavily - pleasingly to my ears - embellished with a wide arsenal of sonic trickery, `A Ghost is Born' has a more back-to-basics approach to experimentalism. The album unfurls in an unhurried and arguably more organic manner, with the guitar the main weapon of both dischordance and melody. On tracks like the opener `At Least that's What you Said' hushed acoustic moments and Jef Tweedy's mournful whisper give way to intense squalls of guitar that send shockwaves through the listener. It's a rawer, more expansive set that suggests a band dynamic in ways that its predecessor did not. However, lapses into ghostly near-silence, impounded by the whiter-than-white cover artwork, make it an uneasy listen. There is a blankness, a kind of textural abstraction that makes the album a little hard to grasp. It takes a few listens for the ideas and mood to make themselves apparent where a loose formlessness initially irk.

The songs themselves are not nearly is poppy as those of their predecessor, and some are so willfully obscure as to test the listeners engagement. Two long, largely instrumental passages do not really justify their length - the first `Spiders (Kidsmoke)' drifts by for ten-minutes on a largely unaltered Krautrock rhythm. The little storms improvised-sounding guitar do not sustain the attention and one wonders why such a jam should make it on the final cut of the album. Likewise, the 15-minute (!) `Less than You Think', may be an in-joke, as most of it is a shimmering drone that would test fans of John Cage. Neither of these tracks warrant their inclusion and marr an otherwise absorbing and atmospheric record.

`Muzzle of Bees' swells from breezy alt-country decorated with a lovely piano refrain into a cacophonous finale with a gorgeous spasm of guitar. `Hummingbird' is a more conventionally Wilco take on Beatles-esque pop, nicely embellished with some jaunty viola at the end. 'Handshake Drugs' slowly works its way out of a plodding non-descript start by building layers of feedback that menace and finally subsume the song in a fog of dissonance. All these tracks seem quite harmless, even bland, on first (even second) listens, but subsequently start to reveal subtle sonic shifts and careful detailing.

If a Ghost is Born is a concept album then, it is the way Wilco subvert the superficial prettiness of their songs with darker atmospheric shades, but with such a stealth to make it initially unnoticeable or ghost-like. This concept is hinted at in the cover artwork, where simple forms like eggshells and screwed-up paper resemble photos but reveal themselves on closer inspection to be very cleverly shaded drawings. The implication seems to be simple that `A Ghost is Born' is melodic pop on the surface, but there is a subtle artistry beneath. Where YFH employed similar strategies with static and radio-interference, A Ghost is Born is more restrained, and sometimes a little too subtle. Arguably Tweedy's songwriting is not on par with the earlier album, and the singing a little too innocuous where sometimes something more muscular is required.

The standout track for me is `Company in My Back', with cryptic lyrics and bittersweet musicianship. The song begins and ends with a halting loop, and the sinister undertones are reflected in the rougher edge of the Tweedy's vocals. While `I'm a Wheel' is a bog-standard rocker, `Theologians' - the de facto title track - is the kind of bluesy, Costello-esque pop, underpinned by thumping piano. The limited edition version of this album includes a handful of live tracks, which might interest completists, and two bonus tracks. One of the latter, Panthers, is easily the equal of the album tracks and probably should have been included over, say, 'Less than You Think'. The kind of spacious indie-pop augmented with simple electronics perfected by Spoon, it's better than the usual fare served up on these CDs but is the only item of interest on disc 2 for me.
5 people found this helpful
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on 2 September 2008
Following up the truly magnificent `Yankee Hotel Foxtrot' was never going to be easy, but with `A Ghost Is Born' Wilco has managed to produce a record of equal impact if not of consistent quality.

On the whole, `A Ghost Is Born' is a quieter, more introspective album than its predecessor and this is most evident on the aching, melancholy heart of the record, the five tracks from `Muzzle of Bees' to `Company in My Back'. These songs are strongly piano-led, with string flourishes and splashes of guitar augmenting Tweedy's lyrics which speak of alienation, uncertainty and instability. The lines from `Handshake Drugs' are a perfect example: "I looked someone I used to know/I felt alright/And if I ever was myself I wasn't that night."

But this remarkable record cannot be generalised, because elsewhere there are some striking differences in style. `Spiders (Kidsmoke)' is a 10-minute monotonous `Krautrock' chugger whilst the opener, `At Least That's What You Said' features a fiercely squally guitar attack. `I'm a Wheel' is a weak track, approaching sub-indie thrash and as forgettable as a Sebadoh B-side.

Worthy of highlighting because of its sheer willful awkwardness is `Less Than You Think'; fifteen minutes long but fully ten of these are nothing but droning and rumbling sounds. God knows what the label bosses thought of this, and I suppose Tweedy is to be admired for his bravery, but the truth is that the drone section does not work and seems a pointless exercise. He should listen to the Body Haters' '34:13' to hear how drones and industrial noises can be made compelling.

But there is yet another facet to `A Ghost Is Born' because in between `Less Than You Think' are `Theologians' and `The Late Greats', two joyous, upbeat stomping tracks which recall the band's more carefree early material. `The Late Greats' is particularly enjoyable, genuinely funny and ends the record on a positive note.

So overall, what is `A Ghost Is Born'? It is a true heavyweight rock album: demanding; richly textured; beautifully melodic; supremely well-played and performed; delightful yet frustrating and exasperating as well. It sounds like it is suffering from some mental illness, a personality disorder perhaps, but it is compelling and vital as well. I cannot give it five stars yet I would recommend it without hesitation and it is a real favourite of mine. A true mass of contradictions, but at its best solid gold.
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on 2 July 2004
I've appreciated Tweedy's work ever since I heard Uncle Tupelo for the first time -a band who need no further praise- and enjoyed, particularly, his uncanny capacity to write great songs whether they were Pop or Folk or Country under the Wilco's banner.
Then came "Yankee Foxtrot Hotel" and a whole new direction for Wilco's musical vision. That album -as many people know probably better than me- with its difficulties in being released until Nonesuch signed them, proved that Jeff Tweedy was an artist committed to what he saw, regardless of whatever price he needed to pay.
In a sense, "A Ghost Is Born" is a faithful progression from YFH, darker tones and tunes, songs that can turn unexpected places given where they start, and very personal lyrics. By and large, the critics I respect hailed it.
I must say that it's taken me some time, and repeated listenings, to be comfortable with writing a review. Why? Because the very things I appreciate about it -its willingness to push the limits of each song, the baring of emotion in its lyrics, the density and diversity of most compositions- is also what's not fully accomplished about it.
For instance, "At Least That's What You Said" and "Hell Is Chrome" are great examples -and wonderful songs- that begin as quiet meditations on life and love, and take an experimental turn where Tweedy's guitar shatters the quiet beginning with extended solos baring the pain that -you realize- was implicit in the lyrics. This general structure is present in a number of these songs which, to me, takes some of the spirit of experimentation away, and could border in a new formula.
A similar paradox is present in the lyrics. They are deeper, more personal, for sure, and I admire the courage it took to write. Yet, at times so "personal" turns cryptic, almost coded messages.
This is not to say that the album is boring nor inauthentic, "Wishful Thinking," "Hummingbird" and "Theologians" -another three favorites of mine, both musically and lyrically- are astounding examples of Wilco's new sound. A sound already announced in the prior album, and having almost as much to do with Jim O'Rourke's ideas and it does with Tweedy's.
There are also moments here that are not as admirable, "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" is forgettable, and "Less Than You Think" may evoke a world of meaning to you but I considered it just a "sound experiment," and should have been left to a future release of rarities rather than being included here -and I don't say it because I'm averse to the absence of melody or can't delve into dark moods.
So, all in all, this is not a masterpiece, yet it's a very good album, promising me enough richness and artistry to get their next one before I read anyone else's opinion.
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