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Music / Wilco

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Wilco, Wilco / Wilco will love you, baby

Wilco is an American alternative/indie rock band from Chicago, formed from the ashes of Uncle Tupelo. (After that pioneering Alternative Country outfit broke up in 1994, its two principal singer-songwriters moved on to form their own bands: Jay Farrar started Son Volt, while Jeff Tweedy started Wilco.)

While their debut album, A.M., showed a heavy alt-country influence in its own right, Wilco evolved their sound in a more Progressive Rock direction on subsequent releases, in the process becoming one of the most critically acclaimed bands of the '90s and '00s. In addition to their original work, they also released the Mermaid Avenue series of albums in collaboration with English singer-songwriter Billy Bragg, in which they took unpublished Woody Guthrie lyrics and set them to music.

Their official website can be found here.



  • A.M. (1995)
  • Being There (1996)
  • Summerteeth (1999)
  • Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
  • A Ghost Is Born (2004)
  • Kicking Television: Live in Chicago (2005)
  • Sky Blue Sky (2007)
  • Wilco (The Album) (2009)
  • The Whole Love (2011)
  • Star Wars (2015)
  • Schmilco (2016)
  • Ode to Joy (2019)

with Billy Bragg:

  • Mermaid Avenue (1998)
  • Mermaid Avenue Vol. II (2000)
  • Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions (2012), which includes both of the above plus the previously unreleased Vol. III



  • Man in the Sand (1999)
  • I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco (2002)
  • Ashes of American Flags (2009)

Tropes featured in Wilco's music:

  • Album Title Drop: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in "Poor Places", A Ghost Is Born in "Theologians".
  • Animated Music Video: The music video for "Dawned on Me", featuring none other than Popeye and the band itself.
  • The Band Minus the Face: While Wilco's face Jeff Tweedy has never left the band, the very first incarnation of Wilco was just the final line-up of Uncle Tupelo, except without lead singer/guitarist Jay Farrar.
  • Curse Cut Short: "Monday" ends with a shouted "Son of a...!"
  • Digital Piracy Is Okay: They encourage recording of their live shows.
  • Distinct Double Album: Being There. Rather unusual in that this was done for artistic reasons rather than space limitations. (Tweedy actually agreed to take a loss on royalties for the album in exchange for the label agreeing to retail it at a single-album price.)
  • Drone of Dread: "Less Than You Think"
  • Epic Rocking: Particularly on A Ghost Is Born and The Whole Love. "Art of Almost" clocks in at seven minutes, while two songs from Ghost are ten minutes and fifteen respectively (Spiders and Less Than You Think). Subverted with "One Sunday Morning", which, at 12 minutes, is certainly epic, but is almost entirely acoustic, and Less Than You Think, which contains about three minutes of acoustic, followed by twelve minutes of feedback.
    • Sky Blue Sky has "Impossible Germany", which isn't as long as the other examples, but is a more conventional form of Epic Rocking due to a guitar solo occupying its last several minutes.
  • Generation Xerox: Tweedy's son Spencer is a talented musician in his own right.
  • Harmless Electrocution: The comic panels on the cover of Schmilco depict a man using himself as an electrical conduit to power a record player for a young girl to listen to. It's not exactly harmless, as seen by the nosebleed he gets, but since the music continues to play and the girl doesn't seem bothered by it, we can infer that it wasn't deadly.
  • Heavy Meta: "Heavy Metal Drummer". Subverted in that it's not a heavy metal song.
    • "Wilco (The Song)" probably counts too, due to being self-referential.
  • Last Note Nightmare: Several tracks on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born degenerate into white noise at the end.
    • "Ashes of American Flags" combines this with Fading into the Next Song, as warped snippets of "Heavy Metal Drummer" can be heard near the end of it.
    • "Poor Places" actually includes an Album Title Drop in the middle of its concluding noise freakout.
    • "Less Than You Think" might be the most notorious example, tacking upwards of ten minutes of hellish noise onto the end of an otherwise soft and unassuming acoustic song. Might also be a case of Exactly What It Says on the Tin, since the actual song ends less than a third of the way into the track.
  • Lighter and Softer: Sky Blue Sky was noticeably more easygoing than its predecessors, which definitely had their quieter and sparser songs, but were much more experimental and noisy overall. Schmilco seems to also follow in this vein, coming on the heels of Star Wars.
  • Likes Older Women: Tweedy's wife is almost exactly ten years older than him.
  • Live Album: Kicking Television
  • Nonindicative Name: Invoked with the cover and name of their album Star Wars, as a painting of a cat doesn't match up with Star Wars.
  • Not Christian Rock: "Christ for President", "Airline to Heaven"
  • Perishing Indie Rock Voice: Prevalent on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, especially in "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart".
  • Posthumous Collaboration: The Mermaid Avenue project.
  • Precision F-Strike
    "I wonder why we listen to poets when nobody gives a fuck."
    —Ashes Of American Flags
  • Protest Song: As you might suspect from the Guthrie/Bragg connection, the Mermaid Avenue albums have a few of these: "Christ for President", "The Unwelcome Guest", "All You Fascists", etc.
  • Revolving Door Band: Tweedy and bassist John Stirratt have been the only constants in Wilco's two-decade-plus history.
  • Rockumentary: Man in the Sand is about Wilco's collaboration with Billy Bragg on the Mermaid Avenue project, while I Am Trying to Break Your Heart chronicles the making of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and the tensions that led to Jay Bennett's departure from the band.
  • Self-Titled Album: Wilco (The Album), which contains the song "Wilco (The Song)".
  • "Sesame Street" Cred: They contributed "Just a Kid" to the soundtrack of The Spongebob Squarepants Movie.
  • Shout-Out: Being There, to the film of the same name.
    • And the song "Heavy Metal Drummer", which name-drops Kiss.
    • Their 2016 album Schmilco is a nod to Harry Nilsson's album Nilsson Schmilsson.
  • Welcome to the Big City: "Capitol City" describes the strain that one person's move to the big city puts on a relationship, due to the other person not being likely to enjoy life there.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: According to Tweedy himself, the lyrics to "Born Alone" were inspired by picking out random words from a book of 19th-century American poetry.
    • Many of Wilco's songs have bits and pieces of this. Take the opening lyrics to "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart":
      I am an American aquarium drinker
      I assassin down the avenue
  • Word Schmord: Their 2016 album is titled Schmilco.


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