As Wilco bask in the ambient afterglow of the first of four sold-out shows at the Chicago Theatre this month, we at The Shit are celebrating the singular jewel of their extensive discography and the one album that fellow musicians and songwriters most consider to be the band's finest work, Summerteeth.
Released in 1999, the album had been initially recorded at Willie Nelson's Pedernales Studio just outside Austin, TX. Thinking they had most of the album completed, Tweedy & Co. first indulged in some extracurricular recording activities with Billy Bragg, yielding the Mermaid Avenue album, before returning their attention to their unfinished studio album.
Hitting then-local studio Kingsize Labs, the band gained their first lengthy exposure to digital recording via Pro Tools. Once Tweedy and guitarist Jay Bennett heard what could be done with the software, the rest of the band had to literally fight the duo from scrapping the entire album and starting from scratch. What time they did get to lose themselves in sonic exploration yielded a painstakingly detailed pastiche of dark love songs fleshed out by often buoyant musical arrangements and production elements that constantly challenged the ear to keep up.
Sure, it was sad, morose collection of tunes, but it was also an unabashedly melodic pop record that one could actually envision hearing on pop radio. Even so, the suits at Warner/Reprise couldn't help themselves from meddling and brought in David Kahne to remix "Can't Stand It" in hopes of landing some much-hoped-for modern rock airplay.
Hindsight being 20/20, if they'd simply chosen to release "I'm Always In Love" instead, modern rock stations would have beat a path to the band's door, especially since Reprise had been successful in taking the Rentals' "Friends Of P" to the Top 10 on the modern rock airplay charts a few years prior.
At this point, they could have followed up with "A Shot In The Arm" and "Nothing'severgonnastandinmyway (again)", or, for that matter, ANY other song on the album and we'd be all probably be talking about seeing Wilco during their four-night sold-out run at the Allstate Center instead of the Chicago Theatre, which, for this fan, would not be an improvement, but would certainly put the band in a higher tax bracket.
Sadly, the band played one song from Summerteeth last night, "Via Chicago", which means that the next three nights will be chock-full of songs from the album or Jeff Tweedy is actively denying fans the joy they deserve for having put up with every album since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.