album list
Wilco, 'Summer Teeth'

Summer Teeth  (1999,  53.09)  ***/TT½

Can't Stand it
She's a Jar

A Shot in the Arm
We're Just Friends
I'm Always in Love
Nothing'severgonnastandinmyway (Again)
Pieholden Suite
How to Fight Loneliness
Via Chicago
My Darling
When You Wake Up Feeling Old
Summer Teeth
In a Future Age
Wilco, 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot'

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot  (2002,  51.56)  ***/T

I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
Radio Cure
War on War
Jesus, Etc.
Ashes of American Flags
Heavy Metal Drummer
I'm the Man Who Loves You
Pot Kettle Black
Poor Places
Wilco, 'Sky Blue Sky'

Sky Blue Sky  (2007,  51.26)  ***/T

Either Way
You Are My Face
Impossible Germany
Sky Blue Sky
Side With the Seeds

Shake it Off
Please Be Patient With Me
Hate it Here
Leave Me (Like You Found Me)
What Light
On and on and on
Wilco, 'Wilco (the Album)'

Wilco (the Album)  (2009,  42.46)  ***½/T½

Wilco (the Song)
Deeper Down
One Wing
Bull Black Nova
You and I
You Never Know
Country Disappeared
I'll Fight
Sonny Feeling
Everlasting Everything
Wilco, 'The Whole Love'

The Whole Love  (2011,  56.23/75.07)  ***/T

Art of Almost
I Might
Dawned on Me
Black Moon
Born Alone
Open Mind
Capitol City
Standing O
Rising Red Lung
Whole Love
One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley's Boyfriend)
Wilco, 'Star Wars'

Star Wars  (2015,  33.52)  ***/½

Random Name Generator
The Joke Explained
You Satellite
Taste the Ceiling
Pickled Ginger
Where Do I Begin
Cold Slope
King of You
Wilco, 'Schmilco'

Schmilco  (2016,  36.30)  ***/½

Normal American Kids
If I Ever Was a Child
Cry All Day
Common Sense
Someone to Lose
Shrug and Destroy
We Aren't the World (Safety Girl)
Just Say Goodbye

Current availability:

Mellotrons/Chamberlins used:

After Illinois alt.country legends Uncle Tupelo split in 1994, all involved not called Jay Farrar (who went on to form Son Volt) became Wilco, adding an indie influence to the expected Americana over a (at the time of writing) near-thirty-year career. They've influenced many later outfits, also spawning a crop of associated acts, not least bassist John Stirratt's The Autumn Defense, who, in turn, provided Wilco with multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone.

Their third album, 1999's Summer Teeth (as in 'some are teeth... and some aren't'. Boom boom), continued the vaguely 'alt.country' feel of their first two, adding Mellotron to a few tracks. Can't Stand It features some nice strings under the chorus from Jay Bennett and Nothing'severgonnastandinmyway (Again) has an upfront string part, while both She's A Jar and ELT feature some decent pitch-bend work. No samples here... Like several other similar albums (in, of course, my humble opinion), the Mellotron tracks tend to be the best on the record (biased? moi?!) the rest of the album being a little overrated. By the way, I've been (humorously) berated for not giving this a rave review, so I gave it another shot and have decided I may've been a little unfair. It doesn't really ring my bell, but Sparklehorse et al. fans may well be into this. Not great, but certainly not bad.

After taking time out to collaborate with Billy Bragg on the two Mermaid Avenue albums (below) of unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyrics, they followed up with 2002's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (that's Chicago's Marina City towers on the sleeve), after lineup upheavals that saw founder member Bennett moving on. Far more downbeat than its predecessor, it's a good album, but one I suspect the listener will have to work at, as it's far from readily accessible, but since when was that a bad thing? Obvious Mellotron on two tracks, presumably from Bennett, despite his general lack of involvement in the recording process, with an upfront strings part on Pot Kettle Black and some muted cellos on lengthy closer Reservations. It took the band another five years to come up with another tape-replay album, 2007's Sky Blue Sky. It's roughly comparable to their earlier work, although the alt.country quotient may be down slightly. New-ish boy Pat Sansone plays (real?) Chamberlin and Mellotron, with inaudible Chamby something on the title track, Mellotron strings on Side With The Seeds and some other inaudible things on Hate It Here and Leave Me (Like You Found Me), making all of one audible tape-replay track. Hmmm.

Wilco's MkVII

2009's Wilco (the Album) is definitely a Wilco album, but maybe slightly better. Why? Difficult to define, but the songs just seem to grab me a little more, along with nice touches like the amusing George Harrison pedal steel quote from My Sweet Lord on You Never Know. No-one's credited with anything, as such, but that's probably Mellotron (as against Chamberlin) flutes on One Wing and a nice string part on Everlasting Everything. 2011's The Whole Love is yet another inconsistent Wilco album, highlights (I Might, Black Moon, twelve-minute closer One Sunday Morning (Song For Jane Smiley's Boyfriend)) mildly scuppered by a raft of Wilco-by-numbers material that could/should have been pruned to improve the overall health of the album. Seemingly two Mellotron tracks, from Sansone again, with a string swell on Art Of Almost that pretty much opens the album and background strings on Open Mind, although it could well be present on anything up to three or four other tracks. For that matter, is it even real? Hard to tell, frankly.

Four years on, 2015's Star Wars is a serious conundrum of an album, from its bizarre, kitsch sleeve to its fanboy-baiting title, which is deliberately obtuse, in case you were wondering. Opening with angular instrumental EKG, other notable tracks include the propulsive, jammed-out You Satellite and the murky, fuzzy Pickled Ginger, while King Of You could be seen as a microcosm of the album as a whole. However, closer Magnetized is probably the closest we get to a 'typical' Wilco number, alt.country credentials present and correct. Scott McCaughey supposedly plays Mellotron on Taste The Ceiling, although it's completely inaudible, which leaves us with the distant strings on Magnetized, played by...? Pat Sansone?

The following year's Schmilco (referencing Nilsson Schmilsson) features vastly better sleeve art, by excellent Spanish sicko Joan Cornellà; believe me, this is tame by his usual standards... The album, sadly, is very much gentler-end-of-Wilco-by-numbers, possibly at its best on acoustic opener Normal American Kids and Quarters. Mellotron? Someone (Sansone?) adds low-in-the-mix cellos to Happiness and a brief string part to the amusingly Stooges-referencing Shrug And Destroy, but it's all a little inconsequential.

Billy Bragg & Wilco, 'Mermaid Avenue Vol. II'

Mermaid Avenue Vol. II  (2000,  49.55)  ***/½

Airline to Heaven
My Flying Saucer
Feed of Man
Hot Rod Hotel
I Was Born
Secrets of the Sea
Stetson Kennedy
Remember the Mountain Bed
Blood of the Lamb
Aginst th' Law
All You Fascists
Joe DiMaggio Done it Again
Meanest Man
Black Wind Blowing
Someday Some Morning Sometime

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

In the mid-'90s, Woody Guthrie's daughter Nora approached the Bard of Barking himself, Billy Bragg, to ask him to put music to some of her father's unpublished lyrics. Bragg in turn asked Wilco for help, correctly ascertaining that their impeccable credentials would give the project an Americana edge that could've been lacking had the whole project been left to that very British of artists. '98's Mermaid Avenue is apparently excellent, leaving nearly enough material for another album, which, with a handful of newly-recorded tracks, became Mermaid Avenue Vol. II. To my ears, it's a good, if not outstanding album of semi-Americana, with several high-quality tracks, not least the guitar-heavy raunch of All You Fascists, although it's been unfavourably compared to its predecessor by some critics.

Wilco mainman Jeff Tweedy plays 'Mellotrons' on opener Airline To Heaven, although the only audible evidence is some very background, er, something; brass? Suffice to say, if it wasn't credited, you wouldn't know. So; decent enough album, in an alt.country sort of vein, but forget it on the Mellotron front.


Official site

Official Billy Bragg site

See: Jay Bennett & Edward Burch | Tweedy | Golden Smog | Billy Bragg & Wilco | Nels Cline | Minus 5

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