Autobiographical Order No. 336: Wilco – summerteeth

I’m not nostalgic for high school. I’m not entirely sure anyone is. There’s a weird trope on TV about people saying that your high school years are the best years of your life, and those people are usually saying it to someone who clearly doesn’t believe it, but I don’t even think that the quarterbacks or homecoming queens actually believe that. Because to believe that you actually have to think your life is never going to get any better. And that’s pretty bleak.

But I do know a lot of people who have a kind of bittersweet fondness for their teenage years. In general I think I’m less nostalgic than most people though. I don’t have old photos of myself lying around, and I’m not sure I would keep them if I did. There are certainly good things that happened when I was a teenager: I met the girl that I would eventually end up marrying, just for example. (I also met plenty of people I have no interest in talking to again, though I wish them well.) But they were weird, confused, awkward times that now just seem uncomfortable to look back at.

Still, when a certain album that I remember listening to from that era comes on, I see flashes and glimmers of scenes from my teenage years. I won’t hold that against Wilco’s summerteeth or any other album from the late ’90s that I love, however. I discovered a lot of great music when I was in high school, and while those were weird times, the music is what sticks with me. I originally bought this album in 2000, maybe a year after it came out, and it was a transitional record for me. There’s a lot of bells and whistles on it, but that’s not why it resonated. The sheer beauty of the songwriting is what hit me, and it’s the album that made me love Wilco, even though I didn’t see myself as an “alt-country” guy before. Of course, there’s nothing country about this; it’s essentially power pop with lots of lush instrumentation and creative production. It’s perfect music for a sunset drive along the coast, and I certainly did that a few times back in my senior year.

If there’s ever a coming-of-age movie made about me, nobody would watch it because it would be so mundane. BUT IF THERE WAS, this album would almost certainly be the soundtrack. It’s Wilco’s best album (not Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, though I do love that), and easily one of the greatest pieces of music released in the ’90s. And for an hour or so, it makes me think high school was a lot better than it actually was.

Rating: 10

Sound Quality: Great

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