By Peter Hemminger

The ghost may have been born and with us for a few months now, but even with so much time to process, it still comes off a little disappointing.

Wilco has a lot to live up to following Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, heralded nearly unanimously last year, many said it was the best album since Radiohead’s OK Computer, until the inevitable backlash.

How could anything live up to expectations set by a band who came out of nowhere, at least to those unfamiliar with the alt-country scene, and took the world’s music snobs by storm?

Well, it couldn’t. It may just be those lofty expectations, but A Ghost is Born seems lacking. It’s certainly less immediately accessible, holding few instantly memorable tunes and the ones that are, like “Hummingbird” and “Handshake Drugs,” are buried in the midst of a somber, meandering album.

The songs this time around are simply less focussed than anything Wilco has produced previously. Singer/songwriter Jeff Tweedy has proven capable of writing succinctly in the past, but more importantly, he’s shown he can fill longer tracks with worthwhile ideas. “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” from YHF was over seven minutes, but had enough changes in texture and enough sonic ideas to not feel stretched out. In contrast, the first half of A Ghost Is Born is filled with guitar solos going nowhere, and songs never quite getting to the point.

Wilco have certainly shown themselves capable of crafting an album growing in appeal with each listen. As it stands, though, this sounds like a step backward for a band who has long been moving forward.

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