Okay Pal. So you made the definitive list of Wilco albums from worst to best. Fine. I won’t stand in your way. I won’t provide the definitely definitive list in opposition to yours. Fret not dear Pal, your album assessment remains unchanged in the order with which you placed them. However, as a long-standing member of the League of Canadian Contrarians, I wouldn’t be doing my official league duties if I didn’t explain in detail how every single one of your rankings could be flawed. So that’s what I’ll do.
Let me just warn you. I’m gonna be mean. I’ll throw your arguments back in your face. I’ll provide the obligatory comparisons to Radiohead using irrelevant Rock ‘n’ Roll precedence to disprove your arguments. Most importantly, I’ll provide my own personal view on Wilco and what these albums mean to me.
Just like you, I would like to establish a few guiding principles before I start railing on you and unfairly judge a most excellent Rock Band:
- There is no bad Wilco album
- I am a Dad + I Rock = I am into Dad Rock.
- Despite your best intentions, you got everything wrong
Boy-oh-boy did you mess this list up, Pal. Below are all the reasons why.
In a very particular order……yours
10 – SCMILCO (2016)
I wonder who destroys
I understand your instinct to put this album as their worst, but I think you are clouded by all the greatness of other Wilco contributions that your baseline is way off. The expectation bar was set so high by this point that its greatness left you flat and wanting more. However, if you put any one of these songs on another Wilco album, like Being There, that song would stand out as a highlight for sure. This album is like if Wilco was playing in your fucking living room. How could you put Wilco playing in your living room as the worst thing Wilco every produced. That experience deserves 7 at the least. The one thing I would say is that those songs do play better live. I was really digging them when we heard them at Massey Hall. They came across as louder and more aggressive that they do on Scmilco, but it’s still not the worst.
9 – STAR WARS (2015)
I kind of like it when I make you cry
This, my sweet Pal, might be your biggest mistake. Star Wars is pretty much perfect. It’s a tight set of kick ass gems that work so incredibly well together, it just can’t be second last. In a strange way Star Wars stands outside of this list holding a special status all to itself. Perhaps because of its brevity or perhaps because we saw them perform the whole album live. Either way, this album can not be denied. It is the high standard of Dad Rock. It pays homage to the quintessential kid movie from my generation, it has a weird dorky cover, and every track fucking kicks ass. “Random Name Generator” is an instant classic. You compared Wilco to Radiohead in your post. I will do the same by drawing similarities to this album and In Rainbows in both its lush driving sound, its brevity, and its Rock prowess. Definitively not second last, man. Get your head out of your ass!
8 – A.M. (1995)
I don’t think you even understand
I hate to do it. I really didn’t want to put their first album as the worst, but, I think in this case you have to. You’re right, though. I am one of those people who rarely play A.M. As you state, it has a lot of great stuff on it, but it reflects a band yet to be realized. With a band progression such as Wilco’s, it is incorrect not to put their first at ‘low bar’ status. I consider it insulting not to. It is like spitting on Jeff Tweedy’s guitar. Way to go, Pal. You just spit on Jeff Tweedy’s Gibson SG by not putting this album as the worst one they ever made. Another flub.
7 – THE WHOLE LOVE (2011)
No standing O O O
This may not be your biggest mistake, but it is probably the biggest beef I have with your list. You say this album is overrated, eh? ‘Dems fighting words. The Whole Love is a behemoth. It’s like walking up to Kareem Abdul Jabbar and saying, “you’re not so tall.” This album is gorgeous and expansive. I would strongly consider it for Number 4. Definitely top 5. Starting with “Art of Almost” it’s got the best of their out-there Art Rock Intros. I am talking about songs like “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart”, “At Least That’s What’s you Said”, “Misunderstood”, and “Sunken Treasure”. Like Kareem, “Art of Almost” towers over all others, asserting its dominance at every moment. And yes, that was the best intro to a live Wilco show we had ever seen. The next track on this glorious album is “I Might”. It’s hard driving and jaunty, full of dark motifs delivered with that trademark Wilco subdued joy. I contend it is one of the best Wilco songs ever written. An assertion that could be made about many other song on this album like “Standing O”, “Whole Love”, or “One Sunday Morning”. Let’s pop a squat on that last song. “One Sunday Morning” is a song that I could listen to forever and never tire of it. If that song was on a constant loop in my head, I think I would be smiling all my days.
6 – WILCO (THE ALBUM) (2009)
By the end of the bout, he was punched out
You were right in admitting you are wrong about this album, but I argue that you are more wronger than you think you are. This album has it all. Great melodies, fantastic hooks, aggressive guitars and musical restraint. It all results in some of Wilco’s catchiest song-writing. I remember reading that Jeff Tweedy thought this was the best album Wilco had made to date. I suspect it was because of how mature the song writing is. Songs like “Deeper Down”, “You and I”, “I’ll Fight”, “Sonny Feeling”, and “Everlasting Everything” are all master classes in how to write the best song ever. I know that you took a 180 degree turn on this album and that is to be admired, but with your ranking, Wilco’s most underrated album remains undervalued. It deserves at least one notch more up the ladder towards best. Perhaps two.
5 – SKY BLUE SKY (2007)
It definitely starts to spoil my heart
Okay, Sky Slue Sky. This is the album I probably have listened to the most. This album is right in my Dad Rock wheelhouse. However, I’m gonna stick my neck out on this one and say that it might be their most overrated album. I say that for two reasons. The first is that I spent too much of my own personal time on it. I should have been listening to other Wilco albums, like Being There and Summerteeth. I have Wilco-gret about that. Second is the listening hump of getting over “Shake it Off”. Let me explain. We often play this album at get-togethers. it’s always a huge hit, in the beginning. From “Either Way” to “Side with the Seeds”, you have perfection. Best Wilco Ever!!
…Then, like a bump in the road, along comes “Shake it Off”…
I like “Shake it Off”. But I am a Dad. I have to like it. Inevitably someone (usually my wife) pipes up with something like, “what is this?” or “I am not into this”. Somewhere between that moment and “Walken” I change it to another album, thereby denying myself and my guests the wonderful pleasures of “What Light” and “On and On and On”. It hurts me to say that Sky Blue Sky should be closer to worst.
4 – A GHOST IS BORN (2004)
So good, you don’t even know
THIS SHOULD BE NUMBER ONE!!!! Way off Pal. You got the apex wrong. They were still climbing after Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. All you have to do is listen to the opener, “At Least That’s what You Said”, to know that they had more in store for us beyond Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Bigger and Badder than ever before. This is an extravagant album in all the best kinda ways. And yes, Pal, we do need 12 minutes of hiss. We so desperately need it and Wilco knew it. And to follow that up with “Late Greats”. Whoa momma! Perfection.
3 – BEING THERE (1996)
I wanna thank you all, FOR NOTHING!!!!
Of the so many things wrong with your list, this is the least wrong. Although I gotta bump it down to four now that I put your four at my one. Despite its beautiful folk sensibility, it is still very edgy. It’s the Ghost is Born of early era Wilco. I completely agree with you on one thing. Like you, the biggest surprise for me was how much I now like those, as you say, ‘filler songs’. Why have I not noticed songs like “Lonely 1” before. That song is gorgeous. Songs like “King Pin” are as Rock ‘n’ Roll as anything they have ever wrote. It’s timeless in its sound. The whole album is sort of like that. To quote Mr. Tweedy, Being There “sounds like someone else’s song, from a long time ago.”
2- SUMMERTEETH (1999)
Your prayers will never be answered again
Just like Being There, Summerteeth falls victim to your complete miscalculation of A Ghost is Born. It is my number three. Summerteeth is so wonderfully pretty in the most wonderfully terrible way. As explained in “How to Fight Loneliness” this album is a fake smile that fools everyone. This album makes me so happy despite how sad the lyrics are. The bright upbeat jams serve as the bedrock for all the dark organic soils that make up Tweedy’s words. It is simply breathtaking.
1 – YANKEE HOTEL FOXTROT (2002)
I’m bound by these choices so hard to make
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is the OK Computer of Wilco’s cannon. It’s adventurous, complex and expertly layered. Completely singular song writing of the highest caliber. It tugs at every heart string and every emotion. Joy. Fear. Happiness. Sadness. Excitement. Nostalgia. Insanity. Loneliness. Confusion. Aggression. Love. It’s a gift to the world and has no equal in its completeness. A true treasure to behold. That said, I like Kid A better. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is Wilco’s second best album to date.
So that’s it Pal. I think I put you in your place and set you straight. Feel bad about what you did. It’s not that I hate you. I love you and I love your passion for Wilco. But I don’t love the way you ranked Wilco’s albums from worst to best.