Friday, December 09, 2005


Just when I thought Wilco's Yankee Foxtrot Hotel could not be appreciated anymore than I was appreciating it:

On YHF, Wilco use short-wave radio as a metaphor for communication in a relationship.

That girl really likes that record (as evidenced by her 10-page entry). All the information she provides on the album's interpretations and the band (name from radio jargon "will comply") makes me appreciate the album about five times more than I did. And I've had it the thing on repeat on my MP3 player for the past week or so.

And I never researched the title of the album.

YHF is a high-traffic station on the network of short-wave radio stations operated by Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency. These stations have played an essential role in allowing Mossad to communicate with agents by broadcasting one-way transmissions usually identified with a tactical call-sign consisting of three phonetic letters, such as "Charlie India Oscar" or "Echo Zulu India". Although the broadcast voice is always female, it's not an actual person but a speech synthesizer -- automatic machines do the actual announcing, sending out a seemingly endless stream of rota-styled messages.


"[W]e're not the biggest band in the world, but we are part of the fabric of certain people's lives. . . . And there is no doubt in my mind that for some people out there, we are one of the threads they are hanging on to. And I think what we have to do as a band is to make those people aware of how we need them as much as they need us. To me, music is love, and I need it in my life just as much as they need it in theirs". --Tweedy


There is just something so magical, pseudo-depresso, honest, true-to-life about Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I don't know what it is, and I don't know why about 6 or 7 years ago I probably would have thought it was too boring, but now I'm just immersed in it. It's lyrically simple, simple images, simple chords and basic arrangements, though a lot of bells and whistles and a bit of fuzzy edges. Nothing too over-complicated in the rhythm section, although I usually enjoy drum and bass complications. But the guitar work. Man. And those strings on "Jesus, etc." -- they get me every time. Look at me, I'm writing like Holden Caulfield here (I've been reading that lately). ... Those strings are on the edge of corny, but they just kill me. Get me every time.


  1. I remember bracing myself for a shock when I bought this record - never having heard Uncle Tupelo (actually only once on a compilation; I had them mistakenly pegged for some kind of grunge band) - and all the hype was going around about what an experimental record this was. Of course, it was just business as usual for Wilco.

    I found the first track interesting, but I was used to "experimental" in terms of classical music, which means much weirder than anything ever heard on the radio. So when "Kamera" jumped in with its bouncy little tune, I was surprised and a little disappointed.

    I remember after buying the album that I could listen all the way through it but I didn't like that so many of the songs were slow. Then I thought about how catchy they were, even in their slowness, and that was cool.

    Yesterday I found out that I didn't even know "Poor Places" was on this record. I can't remember ever listening to it. But I know "Reservations" back to front. Go figure.

    I didn't realize the title was in the phonetic alphabet for a long time. What I did know (or thought I knew) was that YHF had heavy relevance to 9-11. But this article is telling me the recordings were complete in June, 2001. How do you explain "War on War", "Ashes of American Flags", or this line?

    "Tall buildings shake / voices escape, singing sad, sad songs"

    Bizzaro, if you ask me.

    Also, I'm finally starting not to have bronchitis anymore, or whatever the heck that was. But not in time for my show on Tuesday. Alas.

  2. 1) Yeah, I bought it because of all the hype, too, though I hadn't heard about what an "experimental" album it was. The sticker on the CD listed it as a landmark recording, in the league of Beck's "Odelay," Paul Simon's "Graceland," I believe it was, and some other recording. I think it was someone quoted from the Village Voice. Don't quote me on that one.

    2) I remember passively listening to it the first few times through. I can't quite remember what my first impressions of it were, but I just kept listening to it, the way I do. I can listen CDs into the ground. I remember listening to one of Tina's CDs so much, she got mad at me and took it away (yes, I have to admit, it was Blink 182's Enema of the State). So there was a good time there where this was the only thing I was listening to for 1-2 weeks, like the Interpol's Antics before it (for SOME reason ... I don't know, but my impressions of that album changed dramatically when I heard all of Interpol's first), and the Blue album before that.

    3) Totally, man. This was just coincidentally related to 9/11, though I didn't connect that lyric you listed until just now. It IS bizarro, but not as bizarro as The Coup's planned release (

    [When The Coup played here, we went to breakfast for a buck, and the singer/rapper frontman came into the cafeteria drinking a chocolate milk, and when I turned around and saw him there, I exclaimed rather loudly to my friends, "Hey! It's the guy from the Coup!" and he looked at me and gave me a "S'right, sup?" look, then went back to his chocolate milk. It was hilarious!]

    4) Recently, as I've been learning the record (YHF), I've realized that he sings in a reeeally low range most of the time. And that like two of the songs are just I's IV's and V's over and over and over and over again.

    5) I didn't know you had bronchitis. Hope it wasn't as bad that tissue-destroying cough I had that one year. Man, that hurt.