One of the many cryptic lines on Wilco's excellent new SUMMER TEETH goes, "Speakers speaking in code." It's more meaningful than one might think. Wilco, the brainchild of ex-Uncle Tupelo
bassist Jeff Tweedy, is an alt-country band whose music presents a tough code to crack -- blurring the boundaries around rock, punk, country, alternative pop, and psychedelia so brilliantly that many fans don't consider the band alt-country at all. Tweedy is a grainy, gorgeous singer who writes great songs that seem channeled in from some car-radio Valhalla. Wilco's groundbreaking 1996 album, BEING THERE
, saw him take roots-rock to stylistically experimental places it had never gone before, and SUMMER TEETH continues to homestead this uncharted territory. "Pieholden Suite" is a soft, gentle shuffle that morphs into a horn-drenched, string-soaked elegy to a first kiss that can only be described as cocktail country, while "Nothing'severgonnastandinmyway(again)" is pure, potent AM pop, hand claps and all. Still, should songs like "I'm Always in Love," an up-tempo rocker hooked around a spacey synthesizer, start to befuddle alt-country purists, the rugged, disconsolate acoustic guitar on "Via Chicago" will have 'em crying in their beer. Jeff Tweedy is a rare talent, an artist who has perfected and redefined a particular style of music with graceful ease, and SUMMER TEETH is a fantastic example of how talented he is.