Like any good hipster sensible person, I’m a massive fan of Wilco. They have put out great American music (for lack of a better classification) for more than a decade, cresting with 2002’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. If you have not heard it yet, then you’re sorely missing out. The album is a weird amalgamation of heartbreak and discordant sound, mixing folk, rock, yearning, loneliness and triumph into one incredible album. (I told you I was a massive fan.)
When the band was in the midst of their record label unpleasantness, they streamed YHF for free in its entirety on their website, with “Cars Can’t Escape” closing the album. The song, co-written by front man Jeff Tweedy and the unfortunately-now-deceased Jay Bennett, is a stripped down story about the tenth or so day after a break up, when sadness and paranoia wrestle and decide to call it a draw, leaving you mired in depression. It includes one of my favorite lines in any song, “So I tap my glass and nod my chin/and wonder who you’ve been in rhythm with.” A bit more poetic than the sure-fire real life quote “I KNOW YOU’VE BEEN FUCKING SOMEONE, GOD DAMMIT!! WHO IS IT?!?!” before sobbing into your bottle of Jack.
When the album was formally released by Nonesuch, it was missing this song. It’s a tribute to the band as a group of artists to decide that the song did not fit sonically with the rest of the album and decided to drop it. It is just too honest and sincere to be swallowed up by the sonic dissonance that complimented the rest of the tracks. It’s a shame because the song is so beautiful and rightful deserves an audience. Luckily we have the internet, so all can enjoy it. Huzzah, Al Gore!
Included below as a double-dip video clip is a chapter from the bonus features of the 2002 documentary detailing the entire YHF recording process, I Am Trying To Break Your Heart. The video shows the song in its various incarnations before ultimately ending up on the scrap heap. But oh what a beautiful heap it is.