Disposable Dixie Cup Drinker

DSC04684May is a month of birthdays and madness. It’s a month where each week brings some new wonderful disaster to plan and execute. May is a month to second guess everything I do as a parent and wonder if it’s “good enough”. Two birthdays and expectations sky high. April showers may bring May flowers, but they also bring a wife freaking out about if we’ve done enough for our girls and their birthdays. I attempt the calm, cool exterior and do the majority of the logistical planning and follow-through. It’s better that way. Not as many psychological breakdowns and blasts of angst. Today is May 18th, 2014. We are celebrating the final birthday of May today. The middle child(which we affectionately call her…she loves it) will turn 11 on May 20th, but as it stands we leave very early Wednesday morning for Colorado on a trip to see my wife’s cousin get married. There was no way in Hell I was going to have people over Tuesday night when I’ll be too busy yelling at kids to pack an extra pair of underwear and socks “just in case”. So today the family is coming over for brauts and hot dogs on the grill, homemade potato salad, and chips. Of course there will be red velvet cake and ice cream, but first real food(how can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?).

So before they arrive I’ve sat down to indulge in easily one of the most important albums of my generation. It’s certainly one of the most important records of my music-listening history. Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is one of those albums that I loved through sheer osmosis. The anticipation of hearing it, especially since it was finished a whole year before it came out, was palpable in 2001. Having seen them in 1999 when they opened for REM on the Summerteeth tour I had been a fan since 1996 when Being There won me over with the line “Back in your old neighborhood, cigarettes taste so good.” Not sure what it was about that statement, but it made an impression. People and places make certain things better that may not be as good elsewhere or in different company. Bad habits become nostalgic. Anyways, so 2002. My wife and I drove four hours to Columbus, OH to see Wilco play at a small indoor venue. It was a lean version of what we saw in 1999. Jeff Tweedy, Leroy Back, John Stirratt, and Glenn Kotche donned the stage and proceeded to play a tense, stripped-down, and mind-blowing set of old songs and of course tunes from YHF which was a week from being released. Many in the crowd knew these new songs and sang along since Wilco had streamed the album on their website(unheard of back in 2002.) I attempted to stream it and after 25 minutes had only gotten through the first 30 seconds of “I Am Trying To Break Your Heard”(thanks, dial up.) So these songs were new to me and I felt lost and awestruck all at once. A week later the CD arrived in the mail and I got lost in it for the majority of the summer.

To me this album was and is perfect in every way. It melded the old and new and they haven’t made an album this perfect since. A lot of its mess and beauty were thanks to Jay Bennett. The mad wizard in the studio that would put anything on a track if he thought it sounded good. His madness was infectious and addicting. Sadly it was his undoing in the band as well. But without him Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot would not exist, so there’s that. YHF is the perfect melding of pop and art. Musically it was this landscape of buzzing and noise, interspersed with amazing hooks and some of the best lyrcis Jeff Tweedy had penned(that’s saying a lot as Summerteeth was poetry put to music.)

I am an American aquarium drinker, I assassin down the avenue, I’m hiding out in the big city blinking, what was I thinking when I let go of you

To me these are iconic lyrics that open an iconic song that opens an iconic album. So many great songs. If I was forced at gunpoint to tell you my favorites, I’d probably say “Pot Kettle Black” and “Poor Places” remain to of my favorite songs from anyone ever(that even includes those Fab Four guys.) They’re perfect in every way.

It’s my father’s voice dreaming of
Sailors sailing off in the morning
For the air-conditioned rooms
At the top of the stairs

His jaw’s been broken
His bandage is wrapped too tight
His fangs have been pulled
And I really want to see you tonight

There’s Bourbon on the breath
Of the singer you love so much
He takes all his words from the books
That you don’t read anyway

His jaw’s been broken
His bandage is wrapped too tight
My fangs have been pulled
And I really want to see you tonight

Someone ties a bow
In my backyard to show me love
My voice is climbing walls
Smoking and I want love

My jaw’s been broken
My heart is wrapped in ice
My fangs have been pulled
And I really want to see you tonight

And it makes no difference to me
How they cried all over overseas
It’s hot in the poor places tonight
I’m not going outside

They cried all over overseas
It makes no difference to me
It’s hot in the poor places tonight
I’m not going outside

This song just moves me every time I hear it. It reminds me of Randy Newman for some reason. Don’t know why. It’s just this shining example of what neurosis, exhaustion, drug abuse, and artistic beauty will get you sometimes.

When I first started re-collecting vinyl, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Summerteeth, and A Ghost Is Born were the first few records I bought. They still remain some of my most cherished vinyl. YHF especially sounds ‘3-D’ in its clarity on vinyl. So many details I’d never heard before just seem to pop out when listening. “Pot Kettle Black” ends differently than on the digital and CD versions. “Ashes Of American Flags” you can almost smell the cigarette smoke and see the tar stains of Tweedy’s fingers. Both sentimental and claustrophobic. Simply stunning.

Okay, I’m going to go flip the record and get that charcoal lit. Happy Sunday.


4 Replies to “Disposable Dixie Cup Drinker”

  1. I think that if push came to shove, YHF would be my favourite Wilco album, so with you all the way with the positive review.

    I remember some kerfuffle about the ‘noises’ and ‘experimentalism’. Couldn’t here anything that odd myself but perhaps it depends what you normally listen to! I love the added textures and colours.

    Hope the sausages went down well.


    1. It’s between YHF and Summerteeth for me. Depends on which way the wind is blowing from day to day. I completely agree regarding the noises and experimentalism. Wasn’t any weirder than Sonic Youth or even Red Red Meat’s ‘Bunny Gets Paid’ from 1995. I found it made the whole album warmer as a whole. Like some ghostly tracks emanating from some old transistor radio.

      The sausages turned out great, btw.


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