With A GHOST IS BORN, Wilco continues in the melancholy and experimental direction of the preceding YANKEE HOTEL FOXTROT. Those intrigued, if not downright fascinated, by Wilco's transformation from a no-frills alt-country group to an unpredictably inventive avant pop ensemble will find plenty to marvel at on this fifth outing.
"At Least That's What You Said" begins the album quietly with Jeff Tweedy's ragged voice singing softly over a gentle piano line, but the song soon gives way to gloriously tattered guitar soloing and full-band backing. "Hell Is Chrome" follows with Tweedy taking on a surprisingly plaintive vocal tone that hearkens back to 1970s soul ballads, while the nearly 11-minute "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" glides along on Krautrock-like keyboards and features more fierce guitar work. This isn't to say that Wilco has abandoned its sense of melody and pop songcraft, it's just that the group has found new ways to express these aspects of its sound. A GHOST IS BORN continues Wilco's remarkable streak of innovative albums and upholds their reputation as one of America's most adventurous rock bands.
What the critics say…
Rolling Stone (p.153) - Included in Rolling Stone's Top 50 Records Of 2004 - "Here they swerve into an equally shocking, poetic clarity…"
Spin (p.103) - "Languid melodies run second to weird sound gestures, soft-rock murmur, and aural pocket lint….Tweedy doesn't sound any less sincere than he usually does…" - Grade: B
Spin (p.63) - Ranked #38 in Spin's "40 Best Albums of the Year" - "[T]his is Wilco at their most organic and instinctual…"
Entertainment Weekly (p.161) - "Rarely has a dose of maturity suited musicians the way it has Wilco….[They] have made their most audacious and riskiest record to date….It has sparkling moments galore." - Grade:B
Q (p.119) - 3 stars out of 5 - "[It's] more confident, more coherent, yielding an all-enveloping warmth….Tweedy's songwriting has edged up a gear, too."
Uncut (p.122) - "[I]ts kinetic power has grown over time….In its singlemindedness, its guitar solos, and its melodic anguish, there are heavy echoes of Neil Young…"
Uncut (p.95) - 5 stars out of 5 - "A GHOST IS BORN feels like a band learning to be spontaneous and unencumbered, and coming up with their most engaging album yet."
Uncut (p.74) - Ranked #2 in Uncut's "Best New Albums of 2004" - "An organic and intuitive record….Exhilarating - and we suspect even greater things are yet to come."
Uncut (p.125) - 4 stars out of 5 - "[The album] consolidated Wilco's reputation as both the finest bar band in existence and a bunch of true sonic adventurers."
Magnet (p.112) - "The album's gorgeous and smirky second half rewards fans of Wilco's country and pop…"
The Wire (p.60) - "Musically and lyrically, A GHOST IS BORN is translucent, weightless, supernatural, capable of drifting back and forth across rock'n'roll's state lines at will…"
CMJ - "[With] longer and more experimental songs and tighter, almost McCartney-like hooks…"
Mojo (Publisher) (p.101) - 4 stars out of 5 - "GHOST is another engrossing, unorthodox record, rattling through styles as deftly and poetically as its chief architect sifts the jottings of his mind."