Summerteeth

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Summerteeth
Studio album by Wilco
Released March 9, 1999
Recorded August 1997 – November 1998 at Pedernales Recording Studio, Spicewood, Texas
Genre Alternative rock, psychedelic rock, experimental rock
Length 60:04
Label Reprise
Producer Wilco
Wilco chronology
Mermaid Avenue
(1998)
Summerteeth
(1999)
Mermaid Avenue Vol. II
(2000)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[1]
Entertainment Weekly A[2]
NME (favorable)[3]
Pitchfork Media 9.4/10[4]
Q 4/5 stars[3]
Robert Christgau (2-star Honorable Mention)[5]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[6]
Spin (7/10)[3]

Summerteeth is the third studio album by the Chicago alternative rock band Wilco. Released through Reprise Records on March 9, 1999, the album was heavily influenced lyrically by twentieth century literature, as well as singer Jeff Tweedy's marital problems. Unlike previous albums, Summerteeth was heavily overdubbed in the studio with Pro Tools. Tweedy and Jay Bennett created most of the album in the studio, a contrast to the band's previous albums, which were rehearsed live and recorded almost at once.

Despite critical acclaim from numerous outlets, including Allmusic, The Chicago Tribune and The Village Voice, Summerteeth sold approximately 200,000 copies — a modest number compared to the sales of their 1996 album Being There. Wilco agreed to remix "Can't Stand It" with David Kahne to cater to radio markets, but the single failed to attract substantial airplay.

Production[edit]

Wilco released Being There in 1996 to a higher level of commercial success than its first album, A.M., selling 300,000 copies (nearly double the number of its first record).[7] After the promotional tour to support Being There, Wilco began to record tracks for a third album. The initial Summerteeth recording sessions were in November 1997 at Willie Nelson's music studio in Spicewood, Texas. Lead singer Jeff Tweedy was particularly emotional during the sessions because he was upset that he was unable to spend time with his wife and son because of the constant touring schedule.[8] As a result, the songs recorded then reflected an introspective view that was also influenced by literature that Tweedy was reading at the time. While touring, Tweedy would read books by Henry Miller, William H. Gass and John Fante. According to Tweedy:[9]

I definitely wanted to get better at writing, and those things happened simultaneously with trying to read better. I would write tons of stuff in my head, and forget. Some songs on Being There, I don't think I ever wrote any lyrics down ... To fight that, I started writing words on paper and making up melodies to go with them. By writing things down, and putting more words into my head, it put more words in my mouth when I turned on the tape recorder to sing.

The sessions produced a number of songs, including "I'm Always in Love", "She's a Jar" and the Henry Miller-inspired murder ballad "Via Chicago".[8] Tweedy's relationship with his wife Sue Miller became the inspiration for several of the songs, although she was portrayed mostly in a negative sense. Miller was reluctantly willing to give Tweedy the creative license to write songs, but was concerned about lyrics such as "she begs me not to hit her" from "She's a Jar".

Before the album was completed, Wilco decided to collaborate with Billy Bragg on the album that became Mermaid Avenue.[10] Once the Mermaid Avenue sessions were completed, Wilco entered Chicago's Kingsize Soundlabs with engineers Dave Trumfio and Mike Hagler to finish Summerteeth. Tweedy and Bennett wanted to start the recording sessions again by experimenting with a new approach to mixing the songs. Unlike previous material, which was performed live in the studio, the pair heavily overdubbed many of the songs with Pro Tools. As a result, the contributions of other members were diminished.[11] To complement the "bold, but depressing" lyrics, Tweedy relied more heavily on the production skills of the multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett, who played a variety of instruments besides his usual lead guitar and keyboard work, including Mellotron, tambourine and synthesizers. Bennett even played the bass guitar and drums when the bass guitarist John Stirratt and drummer Ken Coomer were not in the studio.[12] Coomer was not pleased about a reduced role in the band:[13]

It was a circling of the wagons, and John and I felt left out. It was Jeff and Jay feeding off each other not just musically, but other vices. There was a bonding going on, and it didn't just involve music. Jeff didn't go into rehab [for an addiction to painkillers], but he should've, [sic] in my opinion. Jay was taking painkillers, antidepressants, and wasn't in much better shape. The band was different. There wasn't really a band, just two guys losing their minds in the studio.

After a series of personnel changes, Reprise Records sought to release a hit single from the album to increase album sales. Wilco agreed to do this "once and once only" on the basis that they wanted to cooperate with the label that allowed them such freedom.[14] The band and Reprise executives agreed to re-mix "Can't Stand It" to make it more radio-friendly. Within one day, the song was remixed into the version that appeared on Summerteeth, cutting out portions of the bridge and adding bells.[15] "Can't Stand It" failed to cross over from adult album alternative to modern rock radio stations.[16]

Reception[edit]

Summerteeth peaked at number 78 on the Billboard 200, failing to exceed the chart success of Being There.[17] However, it was their first album to chart in the top 40 in the United Kingdom.[18] By 2003, it had sold only 200,000 copies.[19] The album was placed eighth on the Pazz & Jop critics' poll for 1999, and Pitchfork gave it position 31 in its list of the best albums of the 1990s.[20][21]

Jason Ankeny of Allmusic gave the album five stars, lauding its "lush string arrangements and gorgeous harmonies". Ankeny also compared the music on the album to The Band in their prime.[1] Pitchfork Media writer Neil Lieberman praised how Wilco "craft[ed] an album as wonderfully ambiguous and beautifully uncertain as life itself" and how Bennett "paint[ed] the album in Technicolor".[4] Robert Christgau gave the album a two star honorable mention, calling it "old-fashioned tunecraft lacking not pedal steel, who cares, but the concreteness modern popcraft eschews".[5] The Chicago Tribune critic Greg Kot championed the album in his review and ranked it the year's best album, calling it "pop so gorgeous it belies the intricate studio experimentation that brought it to life".[22][23]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Can't Stand It" (Tweedy, Bennett) – 3:46
  2. "She's a Jar" (Tweedy, Bennett) – 4:43
  3. "A Shot in the Arm" (Tweedy, Bennett, Stirratt) – 4:19
  4. "We're Just Friends" (Tweedy, Bennett, Stirratt) – 2:44
  5. "I'm Always in Love" (Tweedy, Bennett) – 3:41
  6. "Nothing'severgonnastandinmyway(again)" (Tweedy, Bennett, Stirratt) – 3:20
  7. "Pieholden Suite" (Tweedy, Bennett) – 3:26
  8. "How to Fight Loneliness" (Tweedy, Bennett) – 3:53
  9. "Via Chicago" (Tweedy) – 5:33
  10. "ELT" (Tweedy, Bennett) – 3:46
  11. "My Darling" (Tweedy, Bennett) – 3:38
  12. "When You Wake Up Feeling Old" (Tweedy) – 3:56
  13. "Summer Teeth" (Tweedy, Bennett) – 3:21
  14. "In a Future Age" (Tweedy, Bennett) – 2:57
Hidden tracks
  1. 23 seconds of silence (silence, hidden track) – 0:23
  2. "Candyfloss" (hidden track) (Tweedy, Bennett) – 2:57
  3. "A Shot in the Arm" (alternate version, hidden track) (Tweedy, Bennett, Stirratt) – 3:54
Bonus disc
And Sum Aren't
  1. "I Must Be High"
  2. "Pick Up the Change"
  3. "Passenger Side"
  4. "Monday (Demo Version)"
  5. "I Got You (At the End of the Century)"
  6. "Hotel Arizona"
  7. "Outtasite (Outta Mind)" (Live)
  8. "Someone Else's Song"
  9. "Red Eyed and Blue" (Live)
  10. "Box Full of Letters" (Live)
  11. "Why Would You Wanna" (Live)
  12. "Forget The Flowers" (Live)
  13. "The Lonely 1"
  14. "Sunken Treasure" (Live)
  15. "At My Window Sad and Lonely"
  16. "Blasting Fonda"

Personnel[edit]

  • Jeff Tweedy – vocals (1-14), electric guitar (1, 9), backing vocals (1, 2, 10, 11), acoustic guitar (2, 3, 6-9, 11-14), harmonica (2), 12-string guitar (3), synthesizers (3, 9), baritone guitar (5), claps (6), bass guitar (7), tambourine (7), toy harp (12), bowed and tremelo guitars (14)
  • Jay Bennett – piano (1, 3-9, 11, 13, 14), keyboards (1-3, 5-8, 10-13), bells (1, 13), percussion (1), backing vocals (1, 2, 4-8, 10-14), electric guitar (2, 10, 11, 13), tambourine (2, 6, 7, 9-11), lap steel (3, 13), synthesizers (3, 7, 10), drums (3, 5), Farfisa (4), bass drum (4), bass guitar (5), baritone guitar (6, 11), e-bow guitar (6, 11), claps (6, 11), banjo (7, 9), organ (9, 14), Moog (9), slide bass (11), tiple (12)
  • John Stirratt – bass guitar (1-3, 6-14), backing vocals (4-8, 11-13), piano (5)
  • Ken Coomer – drums (1, 2, 5-14), timpani (3)
  • Leroy Bach – piano (12)
  • Dave Crawford – trumpet (7)
  • Mark Greenberg – vibraphone (11)
  • David Campbell — String arrangements (1)
  • Mitch Easter, Chris Grainger, Larry Greenhill, Mike Hagler, Russ Long, David Trumfio – engineers
  • David Kahne, Jim Scott – mixing
  • Mike Scotella – mixing assistant
  • Steve Chadie – assistant engineer
  • Lawrence Azerrad – artwork, graphic design

Appearance in media[edit]

"How to Fight Loneliness" can be heard at the end of "Something Old" episode of How I Met Your Mother and was included in the soundtrack of the movie Girl, Interrupted (1999), and at the end of You Must Remember This episode of House (TV Series) (Season 7 episode 12).

"Summerteeth" is mentioned as a minor plot-element in Jo Nesbø's novel Phantom (2012)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Summerteeth at AllMusic
  2. ^ Mike Flaherty (1999-03-12). "Summer Teeth Review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2012-11-29. 
  3. ^ a b c "Wilco - Summerteeth CD Album". CD Universe. Retrieved 2013-05-31. 
  4. ^ a b Neil Lieberman (1999-02-28). "Wilco: Summerteeth". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2012-11-29. 
  5. ^ a b Robert Christgau. "CG: Wilco". RobertChristgau.com. Retrieved 2012-11-29. 
  6. ^ Greg Kot (1999-03-18). "Summerteeth". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2013-05-31. 
  7. ^ Kot 2004. p. 126
  8. ^ a b Kot 2004. p. 138
  9. ^ Kot 2004 p. 136
  10. ^ Kot 2004. pp. 140-1
  11. ^ Kot 2004. pp. 154-5
  12. ^ Kot 2004. p. 156
  13. ^ Kot 2004. p. 157
  14. ^ Kot 2004. pp. 163-4
  15. ^ Kot 2004. p. 165
  16. ^ Kot 2004. p. 166
  17. ^ "The Billboard 200". Billboard. March 27, 1999. 
  18. ^ "UK Top 40 Hit Database". everyhit.com.  Last accessed August 3, 2007.
  19. ^ Kot 2004. p. 167
  20. ^ "The 1999 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice.  Accessed August 3, 2007.
  21. ^ "Top 100 Albums of the 1990s". Pitchfork Media.  Accessed August 4, 2007.
  22. ^ Kot, Greg (December 5, 1999). "Greg Kot's Top 20 Albums of 1999". The Chicago Tribune. 
  23. ^ Kot, Greg (February 28, 1999). "Summerteeth (review)". The Chicago Tribune. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]