"Summerteeth" by Wilco (1999)
The first time I ever heard anything about Wilco, it was during the hey-day of the sound-alike bands, (Matchbox 20, Third Eye Blind, The Wallflowers, et al.) and for me Wilco was lost in the crowd. They recieved very favorable reviews for their '97 collaboration with Billy Bragg, Mermaid Avenue--a tribute to Woody Guthrie. Even though most critics raved about Mermaid, at the time I wasn't doing this and I wasn't quite intrigued enough to pick it up.
Fortunatley, I happened to be watching David Letterman on March 30. Wilco performed their single "Can't Stand It" from their newest, Summerteeth and the first thing I did on April 1, was to run out and buy the album. Evidently, I wasn't the only one watching Dave, because by Noon there wasn't a copy of the CD left in St. George.
Summerteeth is most unmistakably influenced by the Replacements/Paul Westerberg--the vocal resemblance is uncanny, as are the song structuring and clever word-play. You'll also hear Let It Be-era John Lennon and a few dashes of the Sergeant's Pepper, as well as an ample dose of Jerry Garcia. I certainly don't mean this as any kind of criticism, as I've said before there's nothing new under the sun and Wilco brings a fresh vantage point back at these past horizons, while driving it all on into the next century.
Summerteeth is the best album to come along so far this year, it's a very accessible record that compares well to the latest efforts by Supergrass, Barenaked Ladies, Cake, and Semisonic. While listening to it I fell into a sort of trance that reminded me of the strange sensation I used to experience following the break-up of my first marriage. I would frequently have dreams where everything was alright with me and the ex like nothing had ever happened. Just like a dream, Summerteeth fooled me into believing that The Beatles never broke up, John and Jerry were alive and well and the Replacements were still together, kicking ass in their touchingly reckless way. Obviously not everyone is going to have the same kind of nostalgic reaction to this album, but by all means add Summerteeth to your collection--it'll bite you right in the heart.
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