Over the past 16 years, ever since Jeff Tweedy built the group out of the remains of Uncle Tupelo, Wilco has proven to be one of America’s most inventive and ever-changing, yet consistently great rock groups. Tweedy has never seemed content to stay in one place very long, veering from the extension of Uncle Tupelo’s alt-country sound on their debut, A.M., to power-poppish Beatles and Beach Boys-influenced rock on Summerteeth, to more experimental, moodier fare on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and beyond. For me, they’ve always seemed a bit like the modern equivalent of Creedence Clearwater Revival: as CCR took the sounds of earlier American roots music and updated them for the ’60s, so Wilco has taken the influences of Americana groups like CCR and The Band and updated them for the musical landscape of the ’90s and ’00s.
On 1999’s Summerteeth, Tweedy and company were able to focus their talents with laser-like precision, putting together a collection of sharp, poppy songs, offset by frequently dark lyrics, that felt like a blend of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and The Flying Burrito Brothers. The level of musicianship on display was of the highest caliber, hardly a misstep in sight. Among my favorite moments on the album — and there are quite a few — is “Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway(again),” a spellchecker’s nightmare of a title, without question, but a catchy nugget of end-of-the-millenia pop-rock excellence nonetheless. Its brisk beat and Beatlesque harmonies combine with ringing guitar and warped keyboards to elevate a song of dealing with relationship strife: facing up to one’s own shortcomings in the situation (“I’m a bomb regardless”) but feeling that there’s a way to fix things nonetheless by working them out together (“A kiss is all we need”). Running the song title together the way they do might be a way of saying it fast and emphatically, trying to convince yourself that it’s going to be true. “Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway(again)” is a high point both musically and emotionally (not to mention alphabetically) on one of Wilco’s best albums.