Having initially read some rather dismissive reviews, I bought this with mixed feelings. On the one hand I have great faith in Jeff Tweedy's way with a tune, but on the other hand I suspected that he was becoming somewhat uneasy with the critical acclaim accorded to the previous records, and wouldn't think twice about "doing a Kid A", thereby alienating half his fanbase. I shouldn't have worried. Although certainly odd on first listening, the wicked skewed pop songs are still clearly in evidence: Heavy Metal Drummer, and the tremendous Jesus,etc never fail to bring a smile to my face and War on War is just a fine pop ditty. However, it's certainly on the more measured, downbeat songs that they come up trumps time and again. The opening bars of Ashes of American Flags send a shiver down one's spine, the song achingly melancholic until descending into a cacophony of feedback and white noise. And if that's not enough, the final two tracks Poor Places and Reservations are equally impressive, the latter possessing possibly the most gorgeous Tweedy melody yet. I must admit that after Summerteeth, I thought the only way was down for Wilco, particularly given all the trouble with record labels and line-up changes. They have of course quite categorically proven me wrong; the CD not having left my stereo for the past three months bearing witness to the fact that this is one truly exceptional album. How nice it is to be wrong sometimes.
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