53. Shouldn’t Be Ashamed (AM) PV - 89 | CG - 43 | KP - 21 High - KP (21) - Clean acoustic draws me in. I think we can all agree it just shouldn’t ever have to be this hard. I miss direct Tweedy. If this song were a 4th grader, it would kick the asses of all his Wilco (The Album) classmates for running around all pretentious-like with their 128 color crayon boxs. Low - PV (89) - Man, do I dislike AM, because this is the most AM song of all the AM songs — gritty-voiced Tweedy vocals, disjointed guitar solo — and I put it this low solely on principle, I guess.
52. Say You Miss Me (Being) PV - 72 | CG - 9 | KP - 68 High - CG (9) - Here’s the difference between this song and the one Patrick mentions below. This one is much sweeter in every way. With “Hate It Here”, the deed’s already been done. With “Say You Miss Me”, there’s still a shred of hope. The sweetness extends to the melodies, as well. A little simplistic? Sure, but it fits the mood very well and the pieces fit perfectly. I’ll admit that this probably isn’t a top ten song in retrospect, but it’s still leagues above “Hate It Here”. Low - PV (72) - This is going to blow Chris’ mind: Listen to this song, then listen to “Hate it Here” and tell me what’s different. Pedestrian drum work supporting major-chord diddling, all backing a “I’m trying to get by without you around and I know you’re gone but I’m just going to keep to my routine and hope it gets better” lyric. They are identical, except “Hate it Here” at least has Nels for the solo. Chris ranked those two songs 77 places apart.
51. I’m Always in Love (Summer) PV - 23 | CG - 52 | KP - 71 High - PV (23) - God damn, do I love this song. First, it fits absolutely perfectly behind “We’re Just Friends” in the Summerteeth batting order, the uptempo rejoinder to the previous song’s individualized unrequited love. “I love you but we won’t say that because we’re just friends…fuck, I love everyone but can’t say it because we’re just friends.” That weird high-pitched feedback sound throughout, the drums propelling it (and the album, which at this point has already had two extremely downbeat tracks try to kill the mood), the way it gives way to “Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway (again)”. “I’m Always in Love” puts the summer in Summerteeth. Low - KP (71) - I’m not sure I can justify my higher rankings of other tunes for striving for pure, then turn around and stomp on this one. It’s a good track, it really is. My gripe, as far as I probably was thinking, is the same issue I have with Candyfloss, which is that’s a knock-off of a musical style Wilco doesn’t do that well, and more importantly doesn’t do anything but explicitly follow form with. Then again, I’m justify high rankings of AM for doing the same thing with folk-style songwriting, and folk-style songwriting that isn’t particularly groundbreaking, just honest and good. Patrick and to some extent Chris seem to see that kind of truth in this background-harmony stuff — both had Summerteeth in their top two albums — I find it in AM. Good for all of us, I think.
50. ELT (Summer) PV - 58 | CG - 33 | KP - 52 High - CG (33) - An airdrumming special, with some fun harmonies and sneaky good work by John Stirratt during the verses. The opposite side of the coin from “I’m Always In Love”, another great Summerteeth track. Low - PV (58) - On the other hand, this one hurts from its track position. It follows “Via Chicago,” arguably the most serious moment of the album, and precedes the spacy go-home tracks like “In a Future Age” that finish the album proper (by now, everyone has the bonus version with outtakes and extras, sure). It’s a perfectly decent song — hence it rating in the mid-50s — but it’s not markedly different or better than “I’m Always in Love” and “Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway (again)” and it comes later, so it gets dropped slightly.
49. What Light (SBS) PV - 16 | CG - 64 | KP - 62 High - PV (16) - It might be overly simple musically, and it might be kind of hokey in its dispensing of commands and advice about how great it would be for everyone to be an artist making art and stuff, and it might come at the end of a somewhat disappointing album. So was “Hey Jude,” and this is as close as the Beatles-obsessed mid-period Wilco came to it. Low - CG (64) - Sixteen? I got shit for “Say You Miss Me”? Funny that the Beatles are mentioned, because I always think of Lennon’s “Give Peace A Chance” when I hear this song. And it’s a lot like that classic Lennon song, except that it’s not very good.
48. Deeper Down (Wilco) PV - 20 | CG - 32 | KP - 89 High - PV (20) - I’ll be interested to see why Kevin hates this, because it’s one of about three actually interesting moments on Wilco (the Album). The meter is the only constant here, with the background landscape shifting repeatedly and some of the little genuinely interesting guitar work available on WTA, even if it’s done better in the next song. I will concede that it’s a bit too sputtery, but that can be said for that entire album. Low - KP (89) - So I’ll give him this: as completely unimpressive as this song is, at least it does sound like something Tweedy feels comfortable singing at whatever particular moment he recorded it. This song comes across as some kind of quiet rebellion against having to write coherent songs, though. The lyrics ramble and do that thing I despise, where you say something incoherent, then pause for just long enough to make the verse awkward, then pick back up with something that doesn’t quite tie it together. I’ll take the end of the fourth verse, which I actually like on paper, to prove the point. So this: “I adore [pause] the meaningless [mini-pause] ness of the this [double pause] we can express”. My initial reaction is to pull aside the “of the this,” lyric and call it weird, but I actually think him doing something that obnoxiously abstract, calling it meaningless, and talking about how much he adores expressing meaningless-ness…well even in the one lyric that connects with itself, I don’t know what to appreciate. Separately, the music isn’t bad and maybe 89 is too low, but without remembering for sure, it probably got there because there’s nothing in this song that justifies itself over anything else. It’s not annoying, which apparently is the song’s most redeeming quality in my ranking.
47. Why Would You Wanna Live (Being) PV - 68 | CG - 50 | KP - 22 High - KP (22) - Patrick and I seem to be tomato-tomatoing this whole series. I kind of dig the chorus, actually. It has this hopelessist ring to it, one of those depressing lyrics that relaxes me for some reason when I hear it. Low - PV (68) - This song is fine, and it’s actually pretty good live, but the herky-jerky (I MADE YOUR MASCOT HERKY JERKY LOL yeah I know) half-time chorus and the pseudo-baritone of Tweedy when singing “Why” drive me crazy. Kinda cool guitar stuff here, though.
46. Outtasite (Outta Mind) (Being) PV - 52 | CG - 20 | KP - 67 High - CG (20) - Wait, which one is this? The rock version? Okay. Yes, this one rules. By the way, in SHIT THAT EXISTS news, there’s a video for this with Jeff and the boys jumping out of what looks like the first plane ever built. Anyway, there is nothing bad about this song. No, it’s not as adventurous as what the world has come to expect from the band, but damn, I love that little, simple piano line in the last 45 seconds of the song.
It’s occurred to me that, with the exception of Kevin’s love for all things acoustic (and therefore, A.M.), our willingness to forgive certain things about certain songs depends on our respective entry points into Wilco fandom. I’m the oldest out of us, and showed up in the Being There / Summerteeth era, so I’m willing to look more kindly upon the straightforward rockers of that time. I don’t know if our actual data shows this, but it sure feels that way. Low - KP (67) - Not sure what the hell happened here. I love this song. Tweedy top five lyric: “okay alright okay alright.” That part gets me every time.
45. That’s Not the Issue (AM) PV - 87 | CG - 44 | KP - 4 Low - PV (87) - “That’s Not the Issue” is not the issue here, Kevin. It’s about drawing a line in the sand and saying “ACROSS THIS LINE YOU DO NOT CRO—” and also, Kevin, number four is not the preferred ranking. Mid-fortys at the highest, if you would. High - KP (4) - Gritty-voiced Tweedy was an honest singer, and a good man. He was one of us. He was a man who loved Uncle Tupelo… and drinking. And as a singer he explored the depths of alt-country and the folk songwriting tradition, from the traditional Moonshiner to Whiskey Bottle and… up to… Fifteen Keys. He moved on, like so many young alt-country rockers of his generation, because he and Jay Farrar killed Uncle Tupelo before its time. In your wisdom, Patrick, you hate him, as you hate so many bright flowering young men at Slow States, at Twitter, anywhere else something resembles AM. Gritty-Voiced Tweedy gave his all. And so would you, Patrick. Patrick, who loved Uncle Tupelo. And so, Jeffrey Scot Tweedy, in accordance with what I think your internet-trolling wishes might well be, in the face of adversary I commit your final interpretation of classic-folk influenced songwriting to my top 5, which you loved so well. Good night, sweet prince.
44. Sunken Treasure (Being) PV - 62 | CG - 35 | KP - 38 Low - PV (62) - I think this song is ruined for me from overplay at the Tweedy solo shows. He almost always plays it, frequently first, and the quiet sections allow for maximum WOOOOOing from the audience, which is annoying as hell regardless of whether you’re at the show or listening to a bootleg. It’s a cool song in its proper context. High - CG (35) - It’s a pretty little thing, this sonic cousin of “Misunderstood”. I’ve probably rated it way too low. It also gives one of the first looks at Wilco’s impending affair with mid-song dissonance, which would become a rather significant part of the repertoire later in the discography. This one doesn’t get too far off-track before it’s beautifully reined in. Naturally, “I was maimed by rock and roll / I was tamed by rock and roll / Got my name from rock and roll” is a telling few lines from a still-struggling frontman with insecurity and addiction lurking beneath the surface.