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Summerteeth is the third studio album by Chicagomarker alternative rock band Wilco. Released through Reprise Records on March 9, 1999, the album was heavily influenced lyrically by twentieth century literature, as well as singer Jeff Tweedy's marital problems. Unlike previous albums, Summerteeth was heavily overdubbed in the studio with ProTools. Tweedy and Jay Bennett created most of the album in the studio, a contrast to the band's previous albums, which were rehearsed live and recorded almost at once.

Despite critical acclaim from numerous outlets, including Allmusic, The Chicago Tribune, and The Village Voice, Summerteeth sold approximately 200,000 copies — a modest number compared to the sales of 1996's Being There. Wilco agreed to remix "Can't stand it" with David Kahne to cater to radio markets, but the single failed to attain substantial airplay.


Wilco released Being There in 1996 to a considerably higher level of critical and commercial success than their debut album, A.M.. After the promotional tour to support Being There, Wilco began to record tracks for a third album. The initial Summerteeth recording sessions occurred in November 1997 at Willie Nelson's music studio in Spicewood, Texasmarker. Lead singer Jeff Tweedy was particularly emotional during the sessions because he was upset that he was unable to spend time with his wife and son because of the constant touring schedule. As a result, the songs recorded reflected an introspective view that was also influenced by literature that Tweedy was reading at the time. While touring, Tweedy would read books by Henry Miller, William H. Gass, and John Fante. According to Tweedy:

The sessions yielded a number of songs, including "I'm Always in Love", "She's a Jar", and the Henry Miller-inspired murder ballad "Via Chicago". Tweedy's relationship with his wife Sue Miller became the inspiration for several of the songs. Although she was portrayed mostly in a negative sense and concerned about lyrics such as "she begs me not to hit her" (from "She's a jar"), Miller was reluctantly willing to give Tweedy the creative license to write songs. However, before the album was completed, Wilco decided to collaborate with Billy Bragg on the album that would become Mermaid Avenue.

Once the Mermaid Avenue sessions were completed, Wilco entered Chicago's Kingsize Soundlabs with engineers Dave Trumfio and Mike Hagler to finish Summerteeth. Tweedy and Bennett wanted to start the recording sessions over by experimenting with a new approach to mixing the songs. Unlike previous material, which was performed live in the studio, the pair heavily overdubbed many of the songs with ProTools. As a result, the contributions of other members were diminished. To complement the "bold, but depressing" lyrics, Tweedy relied more heavily on the production skills of multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett, who played a variety of instruments besides his usual lead guitar and keyboard work, including Mellotron, tambourine, synthesizers. Bennett even played the bass guitar and drums when bassist John Stirratt and drummer Ken Coomer were not in the studio. Coomer was not pleased about a reduced role in the band:

After a series of personnel changes, Reprise Records sought to release a hit single from the album to increase album sales. Wilco agreed to do this "once and once only" on the basis that they wanted to cooperate with the label that allowed them such freedom. The band and Reprise executives agreed to re-mix "Can't Stand It" to make it more radio-friendly. Within one day, the song was remixed into the version that appeared on Summerteeth, cutting out portions of the bridge and adding bells. "Can't Stand It" failed to cross over from Triple-A to modern rock radio stations.


Summerteeth peaked at number seventy-eight on the Billboard 200, failing to exceed the chart success of Being There. However, it was their first album to chart in the top forty in the United Kingdom. As of 2003, it had sold only 200,000 copies. The album placed eighth on the Pazz & Jop critics' poll for 1999, and Pitchfork gave it position thirty-one in its list of the best albums of the 1990s.

The album received mostly positive reviews upon its release. Jason Ankeny of Allmusic gave the album five stars, lauding its "lush string arrangements and gorgeous harmonies." Ankeny also compared the music on the album to The Band in their prime. Pitchfork Media writer Neil Lieberman praised how Wilco "craft[ed] an album as wonderfully ambiguous and beautifully uncertain as life itself," and how Bennett "paint[ed] the album in Technicolor." Robert Christgau gave the album a two star honorable mention, calling it "old-fashioned tunecraft lacking not pedal steel, who cares, but the concreteness modern popcraft eschews." Chicago Tribune critic Greg Kot championed the album on his review of the album and ranked it the year's best album, calling it "pop so gorgeous it belies the intricate studio experimentation that brought it to life."

Track listing

  1. "Can't Stand It" (Tweedy, Bennett) – 3:46
  2. "She's a Jar" (Tweedy, Bennett) – 4:43
  3. "A Shot in the Arm" (Tweedy, Bennett, Stirratt) – 4:19
  4. "We're Just Friends" (Tweedy, Bennett, Stirratt) – 2:44
  5. "I'm Always in Love" (Tweedy, Bennett) – 3:41
  6. "Nothing'severgonnastandinmyway(again)" (Tweedy, Bennett, Stirratt) – 3:20
  7. "Pieholden Suite" (Tweedy, Bennett) – 3:26
  8. "How to Fight Loneliness" (Tweedy, Bennett) – 3:53
  9. "Via Chicago" (Tweedy) – 5:33
  10. "ELT" (Tweedy, Bennett) – 3:46
  11. "My Darling" (Tweedy, Bennett) – 3:38
  12. "When You Wake Up Feeling Old" (Tweedy) – 3:56
  13. "Summer Teeth" (Tweedy, Bennett) – 3:21
  14. "In a Future Age" (Tweedy, Bennett) – 2:57
  15. Untitled (silence, hidden track) – 0:23
  16. "Candyfloss" (hidden track) (Tweedy, Bennett) – 2:57
  17. "A Shot in the Arm" (alternate version, hidden track) (Tweedy, Bennett, Stirratt) – 3:54

Limited Edition Bonus Disc

Initial Canadian promo pressings of the CD version of the album came with a bonus disc entitled "Summerteeth and Sum Aren't" which feature back catalogue selections, non-album tracks, demo versions, and exclusive live recordings, custom printed discs with title/tracklisting text. This item is one of the rarest double disc selections from the Wilco catalog because the limited pressings were issued only for promotional use. Copies have been known to sell for upwards of $150 on the auction site Ebay.

Bonus Disc Tracklisting

  1. "I Must Be High"
  2. "Pick Up The Change"
  3. "Passenger Side"
  4. "Monday (Demo Version)"
  5. "I Got You (At The End Of The Century)"
  6. "Hotel Arizona"
  7. "Outtasite (Outta Mind) - Live"
  8. "Someone Else's Song"
  9. "Red Eyed And Blue - Live"
  10. "Box Full Of Letters - Live"
  11. "Why Would You Wanna - Live"
  12. "Forget The Flowers - Live"
  13. "The Lonely 1"
  14. "Sunken Treasure - Live"
  15. "At My Window Sad And Lonely"
  16. "Blasting Fonda - non album track"



  1. Kot 2004. p. 138
  2. Kot 2004 p. 136
  3. Kot 2004. pp. 140-1
  4. Kot 2004. pp. 154-5
  5. Kot 2004. p. 156
  6. Kot 2004. p. 157
  7. Kot 2004. pp. 163-4
  8. Kot 2004. p. 165
  9. Kot 2004. p. 166
  10. Last accessed August 3, 2007.
  11. Kot 2004. p. 167
  12. Last accessed August 3, 2007.
  13. Last accessed August 4, 2007.
  14. Last accessed August 3, 2007.
  15. Last accessed August 3, 2007.
  16. Last accessed August 3, 2007.


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