But above all, it's Tweedy's songwriting that has most confounded expectations-and most focused his band. Musically, he's gone every which way but straight, veering from simple to complex and from the sublime to the ridiculous. Lyrically, however, he's gone only one way: straight down, boring into his heart and soul with an artistry that compares with work of the great song poets of our age: Dylan, Lennon, Cohen, and Cobain. Tweedy's lyrics also compare with those masters in their evocativeness and their elusiveness. We have no idea exactly what Tweedy means when he sings "I am an American aquarium drinker / I assassin down the avenue," but we surely get the point.
So when Tweedy writes a song like "Wilco (the song)" with a verse built over standard chord change and a chorus with the lyrics "Wilco loves you, baby," you may wonder if he means it, if he's just being ironic, or if it's something else entirely. We'll have to go to Hill to hear him sing it live to find out-and even then we may never know.
[Originally published in October, 2009.]