FDF Volume 1 Issue 43: Wilco - Summerteeth
Album - Summerteeth
Artist - Wilco
Key Players - Jeff Tweedy - lead vocals+guitar, Jay Bennett - guitar, keyboards you name it, John Stirratt - bass, Ken Coomer - drums.
Produced By - Wilco
Release Date - March 9, 1999
What caused me to blow off the dust? The love of Wilco, and most recently the Tweedy live concert documentary "Sunken Treasure"
Overview - One of the better stories in rock the last few years. This was a big major label release by the band. When they went to record the followup they decided to have a camera crew on hand and make the documentary "I am not trying to break your heart". During this time the band was dropped by the label. Wilco has continued to churn out nearly flawless records and each seems to be better than the last. Around this time the band were losing some of the "alt country" feel they all but helped define while writing some darker more orchestral songs. The album title is rumored to be taken from the idea of "false teeth" meaning if you asked someone in the south they might say "Some are Teeth others are fake" (aka Summerteeth some are not).
FDF Comments (aka the songs) - The album starts of strong with "Can't Stand It" that has strong, infectious back beat and you immediatley hear the higher production value the band had on this record. The sound is full and you can hear the subtle shakers to the triangle used during the track. The band wastes no time in getting the point across they have matured in sound. "She's a Jar" follows and is in a stark contrast to the previous track. Its a much slower, and darker track. Later in the track there is harmonica in the vein of Neil Young..so up front and in your face you are almost transfixed on this single moment. Stunning. "A Shot in the Arm" is one of the stand out tracks on the record. Still performed live this song offers it all. Great music, strong vocals and a super hook. This is Wilco caught at their best. "We're Just Friends" is on of the shorter tracks on the record clocking in under 2:30. In reading the lyrics you'd easily gather this could very well be a letter of apology based on a confusing moment. Take from it what you will. "I'm Always in Love" follows and is a wonderful pop song. An answer to the previous track??! Concept album here we come! Tweedy repeats the line "I'm worried I'm always in love" as the band oohs and ahhs 60's style behind him. If people could write songs half as good as this we'd be golden. "Nothing'severgonnastandinmyway(again)" - yes that is the full song title and it continues with the catchy pop format.
"Pieholden Suite" - a sullen song with a strong piano lead. "How to Fight Loneliness" - the song title alone is almost scary. The track begins with a solo strummed guitar and is then filled with a slight back beat and swooping bass and organ lines. "Via Chicago" follows. This song shares the name with the popular Wilco fan site/messageboard. Again, leading off with a solo guitar and Tweedy shows some of his dark side when he says "I dreamed about killing you again last night..and it felt alright to me". During the song there are some strong Beatle/Beach Boys influences on the vocal effects as well as a piano interlude that adds a nice touch. "ELT" (everyl little thing) uses some of the same keyboards as "I'm Always in Love" and there is a twangy slide guitar used during the intro. Its a toe tapper after the last few "mellower" songs. "My Darling" slows things down again with an old western sounding (in a bar) piano intro. The lyrics are practically whispered.
"When You Wake Up Feeling Old" has a little Dead feel to it, if one can say. Its almost something you'd hear them do. Bennett pretty much leads this song with his piano and organ work. "Summer Teeth" is a track you'd put on at any old backyard BBQ. Its not over the top in your face but it seems like it would fit perfect. How this has not landed on some movie or tv show as background music during an outdoor family event seems almost criminal. "In a Future Age" ends the album, at least in theory to the "holders of the liner notes". You'll see, we will get there. Its another particulary dark sounding track. It put in the right place on the record honestly as it is kind of a bummer track. What follows is 0:23 of "Silence" before "Candyfloss" starts up. Beginning with swirling chaotic piano has some great uptempo lyrics. Think a little of "radio radio" from Elvis Costello regarding a keyboard sound and Tweedy sings almost bubblegum lyrics, but its a fun song that "works". Don't hit stop yet on your cd player..we got one final "hidden track". "A Shot in the Arm (Alt. Version)". The alternate version has some production changes including vocal remixes and some instrument sound changes. Overall it is the same tune from earlier in the record.
Where are they now? Wilco are still writing and performing although the current line up from this record has changed. Jeff and John are still doing Wilco as well as other projects. Bennett stayed on for the studio portion of the follow up to Summerteeth before being asked to leave the band. Jay has released a few albums in that time and worked as a producer. Ken was in the band prior to Wilco called Uncle Tupelo. Since leaving Wilco he too has worked on a series of projects including producing and performing.
FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - Somehow I miss them every time they have played local. They are tops on the list to see
the label viewed this record as a failure
FDF Overall Take - The label viewed this as a failure but it made the best of list that year. It can be a challenging listen at times and the band was trying new things out. Some worked, others may have fallen a little flat. Overall its a standout Wilco record. It is a strong representation of what they are about. More than a single spin might be needed if you are new to the band but like a light switch on any given spin it will all "click" and fall in to place. Brush the dust off this one, it deserves better than that!
Want to find out more? check out the documentary I am not trying to break your heart..if this doesn't make you a fan of Wilco nothing will.
Curious are you? Check out some tunes RIGHT NOW!
Mp3s were removed They were:
I'm Always in Love
My Darling a Summerteeth Demo Version
Note that posting these is new to me. Let me know if there are issues and I'll work to correct. Apprecaite you stopping over and your patience as I work through the changes!
Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the