I never really cared for this album, and I’d take a compilation made out their post-A Ghost is Born output over this in a heartbeat (each album of which, should be noted, is weaker than Summerteeth). This album is really hook-based, and only some of those hooks are exhilarating, namely Jeff Tweedy belting out the choruses of “Can’t Stand It” (while the drums punctuate the frustration to life) and “A Shot in the Arm” (delivered in a way that could convince a trypanophobe to face his/her weakness); the harmonica in the back of “She’s a Jar” that suggests a silver lining before Tweedy pulls the rug out from under you, switching “She begs me not to miss her” to “She begs me not to hit her” and ends the song, leaving you breathless; the lasers of “I’m Always in Love.” And Tweedy’s lyrics will never be so straight-forward again: “The ashtray says / You’ve been up all night” says a lot in very few words. But the rockers sounds like the power pop bands of the 90s more than they do Big Star (who Wilco cover around this period): “ELT” sounds like Teenage Fanclub’s “About You”; Tweedy sounds like Rivers Cuomo (not a good thing) on “I’m Always in Love”; “Nothing’severgonnasstandinmyway (Again)” would be nothing if not for the choruses’ handclaps. It doesn’t help that Jay Bennett’s over-overdubbing sends a lot of Summerteeth back to the 60s, and it’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to listen to “Pieholden Suite” or the sleepy-psychedelia of “My Darling” over the real thing.
Oh, and if it weren’t for the opening couplet of “Via Chicago,” no one would talk about it.