What do post-modern sensibilities, shortwave radio static, September 11th, and alt-country-pop-rock have in common? The correct answer is Wilco’s album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but I also would’ve accepted rednow (I mean, who even knows what rednow is really about anyway?).
This month is the 10th anniversary of Wilco’s most famous and most unique album. It’s a bit strange to me that this album is already 10 years old, but still clearly communicates an experience of disconnection. This experience made perfect sense to so many of us after September 11. It was one of the only albums that could begin to capture how we felt after that day. Plenty of bands were making music to boost our spirits and help us overcome these feelings, but none of these (U2’s “Walk On” and Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising”) were able to really come close to being able to sit with us in those odd feelings of disconnection that we felt—not as individuals, which is how the disconnection associated with post-modernity has mostly been described, but as a society and nation of people.
The album still contains some of the best indie pop-rock from the first decade of the millennium, but all that comes mixed together with quiet dreamy melodies and not so quiet “noise.” All this coalescing on a single album creates the feeling of dislocation that post-modernity has for so long spoken of, yet this music somehow allows us to be disconnected together. This album is less a sequence of songs and more of a single progression of an experience.
Even 10 years after September 11th and the dislocation that we as a nation and a society felt, one can pick up this album and feel the dislocation that might not be directly related to a national tragedy, but still exists in many of our lives from time to time. What Yankee Hotel Foxtrot does is what art should do. It shouldn’t just move us, but should also be able to put its finger on the experience when we don’t feel able to move at all.