Wilco // Yankee Hotel Foxtrot // Nonesuch // 2002
The brain of every divergent young adult houses the same facade that is flaunted by their favorite alternative bands: “different is better.” A mindset driven by those who cling to the coattails of collectivism but spout the necessity of individualism. “Alternative” was a movement that began in the early 80s by meshing the successful formula of pop music with the creative sensibilities of the underground scenes. The result was a rotten intermediary that could not boast the success of pop or the innovation of the underground, but advertised itself as the brainchild of every collective movement driven by the need to feel unique.
The movement produced some of the least creative albums of the past 40 years: The Smith’s The Queen Is Dead, Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pixies’ Doolittle, R.E.M.’s Murmur, The Strokes’ Is This It—Albums too afraid to admit that that their conception was neither creative or innovative, but too cocky to admit that they cared. The movement produced no innovation to take pride in, no creativity to get excited about, and the voices of the hive mind that conceived it faded from the rally cry of a self-aware mind to the lamentations of a lugubrious burnout. To make matters worse, the commercial success of Nirvana and Pearl Jam lifted the genre into the mainstream and effectively sealed its fate, but a great evil arose from its ashes—indie rock—definitive proof that if music was a man, he was not capable of learning from his mistakes.
That being said, Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is only indie rock album I’ll ever recommend. It’s got the self-reflection of a man who can swallow his pride, the societal commentary of a human who isn’t afraid to look up from their technology, and the playfulness of your best friend who shrugs off an embarrassing moment by remembering that there’s plenty more to come.