I was totally primed to love Summerteeth – it was my first Wilco album, and I bought it at the beginning of summer, just after a root canal. Where Being There was a trawl through classic rock, this tends far more towards classic pop, with a previously undisclosed influence from Brian Wilson and there are very few traces of country. It’s also the most Jay Bennett dominated Wilco album, with lots of vintage keyboards layered on.
Unfortunately, this isn’t as intriguing as it sounds – Summerteeth lacks the energy and rawness of Being There, and it’s only really given any edge by the narcissistic lyrics (“I dreamed about killing you again last night, and it felt alright to me” is the opening line of ‘Via Chicago’). The emotional weight is less apparent here with the glossy arrangements.
Summerteeth opens with a trio of great songs; ‘I Can’t Stand It’ is pretty much the funkiest piece in the Wilco catalogue with its crisp organ attack and memorable chorus (“It’s my love/I can’t stand it/I can’t stand it”), ‘She’s A Jar’ is moody and gorgeous, and ‘A Shot In The Arm’ is desperate in its empathy (“The ashtray says/You were up all night”). Orchestration is used to great effect in ‘Pieholden Suite’, which breaks down into a pretty horn section. Overall, though, there’s too much snoozy material, even if most individual pieces are excellent, and the net effect can be wearying, a situation not helped by the fact that of the few rockers, ‘Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway(again)’ and ‘ELT’ seem interchangeable.
Summerteeth does reward repeated listening – these songs are well constructed, and often fascinating – but it just doesn’t have the immediate visceral appeal of the most of Wilco’s other records.