istory forgets the EP. Oh, yeah, there are a couple of exceptions. Les Savy Fav’s EMOR: Rome Written Upside Down EP, The Nerves’ self-titled EP--but besides those, what bands do you know whose best-known release is an EP? And yeah, a lot of fans will claim Pavement’s Watery, Domestic and Wire’s Read and Burn 01 & 02 as watershed moments for those bands, but what other EPs are there that are considered truly indispensable classics of the indie (or any other) genre? There aren’t many. Instead, they are generally used for fan appeasement—a handful of new songs to tide the fans over until the new full-length. Maybe one or two gems included, but basically just a sketch pad for ideas to come to fruition on future LPs or Thanksgiving leftovers that would sound stale if left around too much longer.
Wilco’s More Like the Moon EP is a prime example of this. In a gambit used similarly by the creators of the two other most acclaimed releases of 2002--And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead and The Flaming Lips—Wilco have chosen to temporarily follow up their masterpiece Yankee Hotel Foxtrot with a brief, six-song closet-cleaner. However, Wilco have taken the “for the fans” concept of the EP a step further, making it available only on the band’s website, and coded as to be accessible only to those who bought Foxtrot. Some might sneer at this, pointing out that the EP (which was originally intended to be out for general release sometime in February) has been floating around the internet for nearly half a year now. However, Wilco have done their hardcore fans the invaluable service of releasing them from the obligation of buying the EP, which they undoubtedly would, regardless of it’s quality, had it been given wide release—and that is a service not to be ignored.
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was a brilliant album. Take it as an important breakthrough of the indie world into World Café culture that will influence droves of bands to come, or take it as a tight collection of truly splendid pop songs with some ace production (I take it as both), it’s just a great album. More Like the Moon, however, is not brilliant. It is not even great. None of the songs are either as catchy or as experimental as any of those on Foxtrot. However, Wilco has released themselves from any obligations to make it great, or brilliant, or YHF worthy or indicative of anything at all. Don’t like the EP? Well, fuck you, it’s free. If you don’t want it, go ahead and sit around until we’re good and ready to deliver the next full length. Good call, boys.
Musically, More Like the Moon is like YHF never even happened. Wilco appear stuck somewhere between Being There and Summerteeth here, closer to their alt-country roots then they have been for years. None of the production flourishes or advancements in songwriting on Foxtrot are noticeable here in the slightest. “Woodgrain” and “Bob Dylan’s 49th Beard” don’t even feature anyone except Tweedy, strumming away, accompanied by some of his stupidest lyrics since A.M.—come on, wince with me to “I’m not a poet/and I know it.” Isn’t that Dylan title sort of clever, though?
On the other hand, there are some perfectly lovely songs here. “Handshake Drugs” and “A Magazine Called Sunset” are sweet, lush ballads that probably could’ve found a place on Summerteeth, even if the songwriting isn’t quite as sharp. The title track that closes the EP is nothing more than a very relaxed, pleasant stroll of a song, with keyboards that sound like slide guitars and a picked acoustic solo. Even the aforementioned “Bob Dylan’s 49th Beard” has quite a nice melody. The only song here that is really worth more than a cursory look, however, is “Camera,” a surprisingly rocking makeover of the gentle ditty that appeared on YHF. Grungy guitars play sloppily over a Mo Tucker beat, the band sounding looser than anything they’ve done since the drunken “Dreamer in My Dreams” on Being There. It’s a great contrast to the pleasant, unoffensive pop of the rest of the EP.
Naturally, there are complaints to be had with this EP. The material, while consistently good, is never that good. And there’s a set of 20-some YHF-era demos, alternate versions, and outtakes readily available on various file sharing services (not to mention some stunning live reworkings that appeared in the recent Wilco documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart) that Wilco fans are bound to be snapping at the heels of the band for excluding. And admittedly, a good deal of that material is better than what appears here—songs like “Venus Stop The Train” or “Not for the Season” and stunning alternate versions of “Poor Places” and, from the film, “Kamera,” could’ve easily been included. However, it’s hard to complain about such petty grievances when it’s no skin off our backs.
“For the cost of a blank disc, a sheet of paper, a little ink and a little bandwidth, we give you the new Wilco record.” So reads the message on the band’s website, and it’s a point that’s remarkably hard to argue with. Like many such EP’s, this isn’t worth $11, but it’s most certainly worth the half-hour or so (and approximately $1.14 in expenses) it takes to download it. Wilco realizes that. And they should be applauded for, unlike most bands, acting on that realization.