It's little surprise that Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy recently completed rehab for painkiller addiction; the man who summoned A Ghost Is Born is clearly haunted. After ambitious stabs at a history-of-rock concept album and a summery pop record culminated in 2002's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot -- a post-9-11 rumination on the state of America, famously recorded prior to September 11 -- Tweedy steers Wilco toward an even thornier path on Ghost, one lined with fragments of art-rock discord and comforting bits of melancholy.
Closer to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot's disjointed aesthetic spirit than to the melodic Americana outfit Wilco started out to be, Ghost is the band's distressed reaction to the past four years (which yielded a very public battle over the release of Foxtrot and the departure of several key members). Songs such as "At Least That's What You Said," "Spiders (Kidsmoke)," and "Handshake Drugs" pack Tweedy's random lyrics ("Who will wear the crown of drowning award/Hold a private light/On a Michigan shore") into less fussy versions of Foxtrot's aural collages. This time, the challenges are in the artist's breaking psyche, not in the music.