Wilco’s long-rumored split with Reprise Records is official, and the Chicago-based group is actively shopping their fourth, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, in an attempt to get the record released by the end of the year.
The dispute over the album began in June, when Wilco delivered a finished copy to the label and it was rejected by a pair of A&R men. When the band refused to make changes, the two sides began negotiating Wilco’s departure.
“Wilco went for the side of the road instead of the middle,” says a label source, “and that’s not necessarily what the record company was looking for.”
Former Reprise President Howie Klein, left his position at Reprise last month and expressed surprise at Wilco’s split with the label. “Regardless of what state the current batch of songs they were working on were in, I feel Wilco were the band who were most set up for successful long-term artist development,” he says. “They still are, and some label is going to cash in on all of the work this band has done in the last decade and all of the work Reprise and Warner Bros. have put into them. I think their last album, Summer Teeth, was perhaps the single best album of the last five years.”
While Wilco initially was pigeonholed as an alt-country band, they left that sub-genre behind with Summer Teeth, a dark pop album. And with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, they experimented with texture and song structure even further. Frontman Jeff Tweedy told Rolling Stone earlier this year that the new album was “definitely different,” and that it sounded like “one of the really dense pop songs from Summer Teeth exploded into ten songs.”
Multi-instrumentalist Jim O’Rourke mixed Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and played on what he estimates as two-thirds of it. “I truly believe this is the record that we have been waiting for,” he says. “This and The Soft Bulletin [ Flaming Lips] are the great American records of the past five years.”
Wilco exits Reprise in possession of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and hope to find a home for it before the start of their fall tour, which begins September 21st in Dallas. A second leg of the tour is scheduled to begin “sometime after Thanksgiving,” according to management.