199 words about Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Every version of it.
This is what failure sounds like: tape hiss and radio drones and “rock music” presented as like a shattered framework, an old mind spasming cutely on a deathbed. The little organ trills at the end of “A Magazine Called Sunset,” for instance, or the spatial glam rock of nu-“Kamera.” Can you imagine Yankee Hotel Foxtrot opening with “a Wilco song” instead of “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”? Well, now you can. It’s hard to separate this album from its famously troubled production process, its songs coming undone repeatedly and nearly taking the band with them, and listening to literally five different versions of it or even just the two different versions available on Major Streaming Platforms is seemingly an exercise in what-if. Or not. The album was always broken and ephemeral, full of half-remembered melodies and dreamlike segues. Walk back in and Tweedy’s voice has new burrs and oddities, each detail off, who put the chair in the dining room and why don’t the letters look right. That alliterative opening line of the original version is the codex: these are songs about language, the building blocks of meaning, and finding a kind of peace in their dissolution.
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