The Loving Girlfriend/Boyfriendship of A Ghost Is Born and Being 22 / by laurel

I read a review today (and I realize that reading a review for an album that is five years old is a bit like exclaiming, "Did you see that crazy twist at the end of The Sixth Sense coming?") for Wilco's A Ghost is Born and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. While the guys over at Pitchfork gave Yankee a whopping 10 out of 10 in the tradition of an Oksana Baiul-pink-feathered-goldmedal-triumph, they were less enthusiastic about A Ghost is Born.

While anyone is entitled to their opinion, I couldn't help but stupidly feel a little bit offended and a little bit hurt that Ghost received only a 6 and a generally unenthusiastic review. As I guffawed and rolled my eyes at every maudlin claim that Wilco had somehow fallen short of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot excellence, I replayed Ghost in my head, and instead of songs and notes and choruses, all I could remember was the summer I spent in a mawkish daze, spending too much time trying to understand every-little-thing.

People who think too much don't like Ghost. Likewise, people who tend to define themselves based on the music they consume or the lyrics that somehow simplistically encapsulate the complexity of their lives are deeply in love with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. It's baffling, really, and yet Yankee, in all its rock-record perfection, manages to do just that--surmise the human experience--without actually pinpointing anything that anyone under the age of 16 could possibly understand. In fact, Yankee has a way of eluding me lyrically inasmuch as I completely understand what Jeff Tweedy cracks and moans over, and yet, I only relate on a superficial level because after the closing notes of Reservations there is absolutely nothing I understand about life according to Tweedy.

A Ghost Is Born isn't something that can be explained any more than Jeff Tweedy can only sometimes commit to a verse-chorus-verse structure. And unlike Wilco's previously sparkling rock crit darling, Ghost isn't an album that you can idly "like" in the same way that people who don't want to admit they don't know what you're talking about "like" a particular song they're only marginally familiar with.

When I hear the pacing guitar in Muzzle of Bees, I am not just listening to an album. I'm driving down the 210 freeway, lost in the long gaze of the Los Angeles vortex. When that same middling guitar finally explodes in a spastic electric gasp I am standing alone in my empty apartment, wondering how to make sense of a life I'm convinced I had only a marginal part in choosing.

And that's the thing with A Ghost is Born. Much like the hazy confusion of being in your early twenties, Jeff Tweedy & Co. weave a tapestry of sonic noise and undulating guitar riffs that, at first, can seem like getting lost in a fog--everything is pale and haunted and monochromatic. But like being a twentysomething, there is only so much analyzing that can be done before you realize the futility of finding an explanation for every little tiny emotional hurricane that befalls you. It's much less about catchy verse-chorus-verse popisms, and perhaps that is why people seem to struggle so much with it. While It doesn't meddle in nihilistic Radiohead-esque incongruity, there seems to be a transcendent level of understanding between Tweedy's raspy pleas and Thom York's paranoid yelping.

Amidst the aural texture Ghost creates, Jeff Tweedy somehow managed to craft an album that, in spite of its esoteric abstruseness, made so much effing sense. It completely encapsulated everything I didn't understand in a way that made post-college profundity something I could relax within. And for that reason, when I hear a critic blast the album for its "impenetrable, unnecessary 10-minute noise squall," the only rebuttal I have is that you just don't get it, man.

You just don't get it.