If you forgot about the Slow States Wilco project, don’t worry. We kind of did too. But, seeing as how this was my baby at the outset, I see the need to finish it up. Here’s where we left off. The premise is simple: Count down the Wilco catalog from worst to best. We started back before The Whole Love came out, and so it’s not included.
We had been doing these ten songs at a time, but we’re in the top 43 now, so might as well enjoy them one by one.
Wilco albums always seem to have songs that are coupled, songs that fit together thematically and musically to where they become intertwined in the listener’s brain. The obvious selections are “Outtasite (Outta Mind)” and “Outta Mind (Outta Sight)” from Being There. In context, the back-to-back “We’re Just Friends” and “I’m Always in Love” from Summerteeth read like a book. On A Ghost Is Born, it’s impossible to hear “Muzzle of Bees” without its sister, “Hummingbird.” And, for some reason, “Kamera” and “Jesus, Etc.” from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot just fit together. They’re straightforward rockers on an album full of computerized static, and they manage it without the overt cheekiness of “Heavy Metal Drummer”.
At its heart, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is an album about communication, both interpersonal/inter-relational and broadcast, and the static that gets in the way of that communication. ”Kamera” is the story of the story, of the stack of lies upon which a relationship is built, the things that need to be protected to preserve the peace, and the idea of letting the falsehoods go. That it is so obscured is typical Wilco and especially typical of YHF. That’s sort of the point, that imperfect communication is supposed to lead to perfect knowledge and desire and love, and that equation simply does not work.