Out of the basement and under the tree!
Reviewed by Neph Basedow, Fri., Dec. 12, 2014
WilcoAlpha Mike Foxtrot (Nonesuch)
In 1994, with grunge in full dirge and Uncle Tupelo broken up, Wilco led alt.country into the mainstream. Today, the Chicago outfit observes its 20th anniversary with a rarities collection sourced from its audio archive. The 4-CD set features outtakes and live tracks, complete with throwback photos and Jeff Tweedy's track-by-track liner notes that keep his dry stage humor intact. A rousing release for fans, early standouts revisit 1995 debut A.M., while band casualty Jay Bennett's creative contribution heavily impacts the demos from Being There (1996), Summerteeth (1999), and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002) – the group's masterpiece trifecta. Some cuts feature Tweedy and Bennett in duo form, including highlights "Blasting Fonda" and Big Star cover "Thirteen." Acoustic folker "Promising" and the haunting "Cars Can't Escape," A.M. and YHF outtakes respectively, captivate as easily as a cover of Daniel Johnston's "True Love Will Find You in the End." What Alpha Mike Foxtrot lacks is equally significant: meandering guitar solos from recent recordings and zero footholds for "dad-rock" puns. Rather, AMF communicates Wilco's career innovation, maintained while increasing popularity – the rarest of feats.