Wilco // Via Chicago

Embarcadero Skies

I’m not really a lyrics guy; riffs and melodies stick in my head more than words. But you always make exceptions for your favorite bands. 

Tweedy was such a functional lyricist in the early days that it’s kind of staggering to consider how much he bloomed. Summerteeth, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and A Ghost Is Born are Tweedy at his most impressionistic, full of phrases that are incredibly poetic (and some that are complete bullshit and just sound good—nothing to sneeze at). Before writing Summerteeth, Tweedy confessed he started reading more—specifically Henry Miller—to “put more words in my mouth when I turned on the tape recorder to sing.” 

The imagery on Summerteeth is fantastic, but it’s all augmented by incredible production and musical nuance. “I dreamed about killing you again last night and it felt alright to me,” begins “Via Chicago,” before descending into a nightmare of feedback and stumbling drums. The song pulls itself apart, only to reassemble around Tweedy’s cracking voice—“I’m coming home, I’m coming home.”

“Via Chicago” is a nice sleight-of-hand: he sets you up with tangles of poetry, only to knock you out with emotional directness and a performance for the ages. Tweedy’s rawness is attributed to a growing painkiller addiction and estrangement from his family while living the life of a touring musician. “Road records” can be so dull and patronizing, but Summerteeth is simultaneously brutally honest and beautifully embellished. It’s weird deriving so much pleasure from someone else’s pain.