“She’s A Jar”
Album: Summerteeth (1999)
Co-Writer: Jay Bennett
Key lyric: “She says forever, to light a fuse, we could use a handful of wheel, and a day off, and a bruised road, however you might feel, tonight is real.”
In retrospect, “She’s A Jar” seems like a blueprint for the songs on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco’s most infamous LP.
The lyrics are poetic and surreal, and the themes jive with Foxtrot’s internally-conflicted songs like “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” and “Ashes of American Flags.” Compare “She’s a Jar’s” “when I forget how to talk, I sing” to “Ashes of American Flags'” “I shake like a toothache, when I hear myself sing.” Elsewhere, Tweedy describes his lover as a “pretty war,” foreshadowing Foxtrot’s “War on War.” The chorus (“just climb aboard the tracks of a trains arm”) contains a quick, evocative chord change that delights every time.
Summerteeth shows a band in a state of musical flux, piling on the overdubs and the Mellotron to create mini-pop-symphonies. The artistic leaps they made from their relatively lo-fi debut album, A.M., to this one, four years later, are astounding. Tweedy’s songwriting style was changing as well.
“I definitely wanted to get better at writing,” he told writer Greg Kot, “and those things happened simultaneously with trying to read better. I would write tons of stuff in my head, and forget. Some songs on Being There, I don’t think I ever wrote any lyrics down … To fight that, I started writing words on paper and making up melodies to go with them. By writing things down, and putting more words into my head, it put more words in my mouth when I turned on the tape recorder to sing. ”