Modern Bands Every Classic Rock Fan Should Try: Wilco
Here at Ultimate Classic Rock we like to branch out once in a while and listen to some music that’s not made by our favorite artists of the past. We love that Van Halen can comeback so strong with 'A Different Kind of Truth,' but, let’s face it, there’s a reason the phrase 'Here’s one from our new album" is an excuse to run to the bathroom.
We can’t say that we always understand the stuff that our friends at Diffuser are writing about, but once in a while we hear something that’s heavily influenced by the classic rock that we love. Our new series, 'Modern Bands Every Classic Rock Fan Should Try,' is a guide for those of you that have wanted to take an interest in new music, but weren’t sure where to begin. And we can think of no better group to start than with Wilco.
It's hard to think of Wilco as a modern band. After all, they’ve been around since 1995, and frontman Jeff Tweedy's first group, Uncle Tupelo, started recording in 1990. But for most of their career, Wilco have become the group that all other modern bands look up to. While they don’t sound like the Beatles, their songwriting chops, talent and ambition have made them indie’s equivalent of the Fab Four.
Classic rock fans should start with their first few albums. 'A.M.,' from 1995 is straightforward folk-rock, heavily influenced by the Byrds and early-70s Rolling Stones. Their sprawling 1997 double-album, 'Being There,' sounds like a love note to 1970s rock: some Neil Young here, a touch of Mott The Hoople glam there - all with harmonies reminiscent of the Grateful Dead or the Band. But there’s also the beginning of their experiments with feedback and dissonance, particularly on the opener, 'Misunderstood.'
Following a detour where they worked with English punk-folkie Billy Bragg to put music to unreleased Woody Guthrie songs (the 'Mermaid Avenue' project), Wilco released two masterpieces. 1999's 'Summerteeth' combines the sunny, melodic studio pop of the Beach Boys with dark lyrics to create something both beautiful and unsettling.
The follow-up, 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,' strips away the classic rock influences in favor of experimentation. It’s brilliant and cohesive, but might be off-putting as an introduction to Wilco, just as 'Tonight’s the Night' isn’t the best ways to discover Neil Young. Unfortunately, Tweedy fired multi-instrumentalist/studio whiz Jay Bennett before the album’s release, which allowed the band to go into a different direction.
Stay away from their next few albums, 'A Ghost Is Born,' takes the avant-garde sounds of its predecessor one step further, and 'Kicking Television: Live in Chicago' documents that tour. 'Sky Blue Sky' is a return to the classicism of 'Being There,' but the songwriting is weak. The inspiration returned on their two most recent albums, 'Wilco (the Album)' and 2011’s 'The Whole Love,' which find their sonic experiments folded into their pop instincts in ways similar to 'Summerteeth.'
Listen to 'Casino Queen' by Wilco from 'A.M.'
Listen to 'A Shot in the Arm' by Wilco from 'Summerteeth.'
Listen to 'Dawned on Me' by Wilco from 'The Whole Love'