Record review

Phases & Stages


A Ghost Is Born (Nonesuch)

Another heartbreaking work of staggering genius from Jeff Tweedy & Co.? Well, no. Being dark and challenging the audience that worshipped you as a "rock" band doesn't automatically make you brilliant (see Thom Yorke). But Wilco's A Ghost Is Born is dark, so much so that it makes Yankee Hotel Foxtrot sound chipper by comparison. Ghost is not a lot of fun. Still, it's an accomplishment, because it's an angry album. This is what anger sounds like after it's been fought to the point of, oh, medication perhaps. And for all the textured moodiness caked over Ghost, it's not radical. As an opener, "At Least That's What You Said" isn't that far off Being There's "Misunderstood," where quiet disappointment turns into sonic rage. "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" occasionally breaks into a bona fide guitar riff. Yet Ghost's rewards aren't found in individual pieces so much as from the trip through the whole. Tweedy enters into it broken and bare and after a series of awkward confessions comes through the back end with cynical humor still in tact on closer "Late Greats." ("The best band will never get signed. ... So good you won't ever know they never even played a show. You can't hear them on the radio.") In fact, there's enough tongue-in-cheek optimism there to suggest that Tweedy is just a happy kid stuck with the heart of a sad punk. Either way, the tension cuts a mean crop of songs out of one man's mania.


A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Music Reviews
Review: Holy Wave, <i>Five of Cups</i>
Review: Holy Wave, Five of Cups
Five of Cups (Record Review)

Raoul Hernandez, Sept. 1, 2023

Review: The Bright Light Social Hour, <i>Emergency Leisure</i>
Review: The Bright Light Social Hour, Emergency Leisure
Emergency Leisure (Record Review)

Raoul Hernandez, Aug. 4, 2023

More by Michael Bertin
Margaret Moser Tribute: Kathy Valentine
Kathy Valentine
Right place, right time, right woman to share the joy with

June 30, 2017

SXSW Live Shot: Mark Kozelek
SXSW Live Shot: Mark Kozelek
Little packages of just-so honesty

March 15, 2014

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle