is Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot the ultimate wimpster album?


You know wimpsters: to quote myself, they are “those limp-wristed Brooklyn-esque hipster cuties who you think just must be perfect boyfriends because of their seeming lack of frat-boy-dude-style and copious amounts of 1” band pins but who turn out, upon closer inspection, to be just another boring non-feministy man that you need to live without.” (I talk a lot about wimpsters in this rad essay). Rachel Elder defined the term in Bust: the wimpster “is a man who has perfected his own male insecurity in an effort to manipulate women. He is a man who uses self-deprecation and vulnerability to prey upon a woman’s need to nurture his massive ego.”

I’ve been on this man thing lately. I pride myself on living in as woman-y world as much as possible (I am writing from my “labia pink” room-of-one’s-own [a.k.a. my office], surrounded by a huge bookshelf of books written only by women, the pink “Entrust Women With Political Power” poster, the Gloria-Steinem-signed “Ms. Magazine Tenth Anniversary: The Best is Yet To Come” poster [found at Salvation Army!], and more feministy crap on the walls than can possibly be catalogued, including – in a nod to my third wavey ironic streak – a great collection of 1960s and 1970s pantyhose inserts). But men sneak in. They are all around, have you noticed?

I don’t mind men in my life, I have lots of carefully collected men friends, but it bothers me when I go for long periods slipping back into the world of culture created by men. It’s so easy to do, there is so much of it out there.


So I’ve been listening to that hipster classic, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I truly love it. But I also truly see how it perfectly exemplifies the wimpster aesthetic. As evidenced by the (fantastic) film that chronicles the making of the album, Jeff Tweedy is a total douche. (And do I need to explain that feminists are allowed to use “douche” as a derogatory term, since douching is a totally douchey thing to do?).

I don’t think there is any need to persuade an imaginary audience that YHF is the apex of wimpster-itude – I think either you instantly see it, or you don’t.

However, I must indulge my need to make bulleted lists, so I will anyway:
Handy bulleted points chronicling YHF’s wimpstericity:

  • Actual lyrics: “I am trying to break your heart
    But still I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t easy
    I am trying to break your heart”
  • The boyobsession with transistor radios that runs through the album really cinches the deal for me. Obsessions with shit like that are totally wimpster. It can be perfectly cool (see, for example, M. Ward), but in the hands of a suspected wimpster, its just tips the scales a little more to the wimp.
  • Jim O’Rourke, wimpster par excellence, makes an appearance.
  • Every word in “Reservations.”

So, is it OK to listen to albums like this, read books like this (Dave Eggers, Philip Roth, Jonathan Franzen, Jonathan Safran Foer, Jonathan Ames, Bukowski, Kerouac, Salinger, I could go on), etc? The wimpster is a devastating phenomenon that must not continue, but it cannot be denied that they sometimes make some good cultural artifacts. The drum sounds on YHF are so amazingly perfect they make my bones hurt. So, I’m hereby giving myself permission to enjoy culture made by wimpsters, as long as I commit myself to seeing them for what they are, and as long as it is balanced by equal doses of awesome anti-wimpster culture…like The Blow.

To end this post I will, totally enigmatically, state that I believe The Flaming Lips to be totally not wimpster-y.

Why is Wayne Coyne 1,000x cooler than Jeff Tweedy?


Netflix homework:

Awesome Lips movie

Awesome Wilco movie

Really mediocre Death Cab movie (don’t bother).

21 Responses to “is Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot the ultimate wimpster album?”

  1. ivan

    you’re right about the drums. glenn kotche is fantastic on that album. so if i love this album does that make me a wimpster? gulp

  2. David

    I apologize, but your treatment of this landmark album makes me vehemently hate you.

  3. lagusta

    Well, whatev. I said right in the first line that I love the album in spite of the shitty zeitgeist that it captures. So that says a lot about you!

  4. ruby

    Yeah, reservations is up there with some of my all time favorite songs (along with The Blow’s “Parentheses”), but the lyrics are hard to read without the beautiful music alongside it, justifying my love. The words seem to explain away weakness – cheating on tour or being a pain-in-the-butt partner. I love Wilco though.

  5. Sam

    Your argument is incredibly weak because you like YHF too much. For the case of this piece, you should have really torn the album apart. As far as your stance on “wimpsters” is concerned, the saying ‘it takes one to know one’ comes to mind (“so amazingly perfect they make my bones hurt” = desperate description).

    We can thank Jeff Tweedy for a lot, especially his records. If wimpsters like him are responsible for albums such as he’s been a part of, I don’t really see the problem in having them around (or rather, having US around).

    Jeff Tweedy and Wayne Coyne are worlds apart. Wayne Coyne is looser and less musically concerned. In twenty years, when Jeff Tweedy is still producing high-quality rock, Wayne Coyne will be long finished and his output will not have been canonized (at least to the extent that Jeff Tweedy’s will have been).

    I found your piece to be sexist, immature, hypocritical, and really disrespectful to Jeff Tweedy.


  6. lagusta

    HA HA HA!

    Well, quasi-anonymous commenter Sam, I am so incredibly hurt that you didn’t like my post and that I committed the ultimate wimpster sin of not being “respectful” enough to your god.

    Let’s get this straight—first you say that “I like the album too much” and you get mad at me because I don’t pick it apart enough and then you proceed to gush about how Jeff Tweedy is the second coming of christ? I never claimed not to like the album.

    Man, what is with the internet? One can hold two opposing thoughts in one’s head at the same time, why does no one (and by no one I mean DUDES) on the internet understand that?

  7. Sam

    I don’t mind getting nerdy over Wilco so that’s why I’ve bothered to respond.

    Starting your message with HA HA HA! is pretty rough, especially because I get the hunch that you’re a lot older than I am, and jeepers, you’re supposed to be a pro-blogger! I’m sure you wouldn’t speak to me in real life the way you just have (employing sarcasm, referring to me as a DUDE who doesn’t understand, representing my response as some sort of religious praise, and calling it ‘quasi-anonymous’ despite my actual use of a real name).

    Personally, I don’t think you’re a Wilco fan. I think you’re a YHF fan at best.

    Your mono-sexual bookshelf makes me want to vomit, by the way. I suppose it’s a good thing you’ve got Pepto-Bismol all over your walls, eh?

    Sam Wilson

  8. lagusta

    Darling Sam,

    I harbor no ill will toward you. I am so deeply sorry my paint choices and literature organization system have offended you.

    I think perhaps that we are not destined to be BFFs. Might I suggest that you travel to another blog? I think you might find a better home in a slightly different milieu.

    I suspect I have been listening to Wilco since before you were born, but I shan’t hold that against you.

    Best of luck in all your future endeavors,

  9. Sam


    You’re a strong spirit with a zest for the web. I’m thoroughly impressed by your tact and rigor.

    I don’t know how long it’s going to be until a Google-based search points me here again. So until next time, keep pumping that Wilco and cranking out those blogs.

    Maybe not BBFs. But maybe Fs?


  10. Duck

    I don’t know how you can possibly say that from the documentary that Jeff Tweedy is a douche. Jeff was going through an extremely difficult time in his life and is a brilliant man. This is the most absurd and sexist thing I’ve ever read.

  11. ruby

    I just revisited this essay because my beau recently sent me this link:
    …as part of an ongoing conversation (argument) we’re having about Ian McKaye, Tim Kasher & Los Campesinos’ song “International Tweexcore Underground.” Since he brought up the word “wimpster” with his link I thought I’d reread your thoughts, the bust article and your other essay (where’d it go?) I’m now thinking long and hard about whether I’m dating a wimpster (are you?)

    I was shocked to recall the irrationally loyal Jeff Tweedy defenders that came out when you posted this. I still love Jeff Tweedy as a songwriter (although he’s the only member of Wilco I haven’t seen on the street since moving to Chicago, boo) but was there really a single person that saw that documentary and didn’t think Jeff Tweedy was a wee bit douchey? The biggest ass in the movie? No, but I think it’s safe to say that Jay Bennet was also “going through an extremely difficult time in his life” – that doesn’t mean either weren’t acting like jerks.

    Also, I like his lyrics, but wimpster boys (like your commenters) can’t expect women to concede his greatness without being a bit creeped out by “Reservations” for one (once again, I take a deep excited breath just thinking about how much I love the sound of that song, but my interpretation of their actual meaning is in my comment above) and then there are songs like “She’s a Jar” – c’mon! She’s A Jar is probably one of my top ten or even top five Wilco songs and I think the contrast of the affection and threatened violence are part of what makes it a surprising and satisfying song. It’s also fucked up and scary.

    Did you ever read that Wilco biography?

    Anyway, our first Girls Rock! Camp of the summer is June 21st-27th. This is one of the reason ideas of male norms in music are so on my mind. It’s also one of the reasons I can’t start a blog about it until at least early July. In the meantime I’ll edit those fb comments into something for you, LY.

  12. lagusta

    HA HA HA! I just reread the comments above, and they are freaking HILAIRE, are they not?

    Rubes, are we going out with wimpsters?? Jakes hates Tweedy, so I think that might disqualify him. I suspect he is also suspect of Coyne, though that might not say anything either way.

    Wait, I think if he reads this he will point out that he recently toured with a band that opened up for Wilco and that everyone was super nice. So I guess I should put that in here. Though wait, he would hate even more that I mentioned that. So I’m stuck.

    I could argue that Jacob is the most feministy boy around, but we both know that, and I’ll assume your dude is also. Innocent of wimpsteritude until proven douchey, I say!

    Where did my other essay go? I’ve been trying to consolidate some crap on This American Internet because I feel I repeat myself so much.

    I think your point that we can concede greatness whilst being creeped out is exactly the point about the whole wimpster thing.

    Le sigh!

    I haven’t read the Wilco bio, is it worth a read?

  13. didn't your mama tell you about people in glass houses?

    A bitter rant from another self-proclaimed feminist. there’s a shocker…

    I find it laughable that you would have the audacity to make fun of hipsters, or their imaginary sub-set “wimpsters,” when you yourself have obviously just jumped onto a different sub-cultural bandwagon with equal vigor. There are more desperate-to-be-qualifying feminist references in this horrific run-on parenthetical thought than there are “dude”s in The Big Lebowski:

    “..I am writing from my “labia pink” room-of-one’s-own [a.k.a. my office], surrounded by a huge bookshelf of books written only by women, the pink “Entrust Women With Political Power” poster, the Gloria-Steinem-signed “Ms. Magazine Tenth Anniversary: The Best is Yet To Come” poster [found at Salvation Army!], and more feministy crap on the walls than can possibly be catalogued, including – in a nod to my third wavey ironic streak – a great collection of 1960s and 1970s pantyhose inserts..”

    Seriously? Your description of your bedroom decor is more pathetic than a sad song sung by the measliest of “wimpsters.” At least they hate themselves.

    I don’t give a shit how close your bedroom walls are to the color your vagina originally was (before it shriveled up sadly and turned grey), you’re not a feminist. You’re just a sad little girl sitting in your room writing mean things about the boys who never called. boo. hoo.

    Identifying yourself with the feminist movement doesn’t make your argument more legitimate or your point of view more valid, and knocking Jeff Tweedy, Charles Bukowski, J.D. Salinger (Catcher in the Rye? really?), et al. is just in poor taste.

  14. Sam South

    Men really can’t win here. I’m not really talking about this article, but more the whole “wimpster” thing. I read the “meet the wimpster” article a while back and came across this today. I just want to ask if there is a happy medium between Jocky man-dude and wimpster. I’d have to put myself in the later category due to my music and fashion taste and recognising an innate “sensitiveness” in myself. However, it’s not a carefully planned manipulation to prey on the nurturing nature of women, i’m just like that.

    I don’t know what it is with Americans and pigeon-holing everyone into a social “tribe” but it really frustrates me (i hail from London), can’t you treat someone as an individual any more? I’m not saying that all “sensitive” guys aren’t arseholes, within all subsets of society there are bound to be a few people who let the team down, but that doesn’t mean every guy that cries now and again, or lacks self confidence, is secretly plotting his way into your pants. It is ignorant and irresponsible to suggest this.

    I really hope you can shed some light on this matter, even if it is five years since you wrote this, i’d be interested in reading your reply. I’m embarrassed that some people above couldn’t convey this without resorting to pathetic playground insults.

    Sam South

    • lagusta

      honestly…it’s been 5 years and i’m not all that interested any more. Is that mean to say? I don’t mean to be mean.

      I do definitely think there’s a happy medium between dudes and wimpsters. Most of the lovely guys I know fit into that space quite well, though I don’t know what I’d call them. Good guys? I dunno. Maybe not naming them is the best idea! Let’s not fit people into categories, I agree. Except when they perfectly fit into those categories…

      Thanks for your comment!

      • Sam South

        It’s not mean, if someone hadn’t changed over the course of five years i’d be surprised.

        I’m glad you now agree and sorry for the vent, it was more aimed at Rachel Elder’s article to be honest. (Which i do appreciate was written in 2004) I was pretty slow to join this discussion it seems, mainly due to the fact that i was ten years old when it started.

        Thanks for replying so quickly!


  15. Randal Putnam

    I rarely pay close attention to lyrics. When I do notice words, I don’t work hard to figure out what the writer is trying to say. For me it is like looking at a painting in a gallery from 10 feet away. I let the image make an impression on me and then move on (most often without reading the plaque and when I do not knowing much about the artist, their movement, goals, etc.). This casual relationship with music and visual arts lets me make friends with work that, upon dissection, could leave me cold. Example–I am a Psychic TV fan. Still wear a coat onto which I sewed their logo onto the back. But I don’t know much about what they were trying to do, and they most certainly were trying to do something. I once saw a VHS movie shot at the Temple of Psychic Youth (their clubhouse–oh how I wish it were in a tree!) showing Genesis and his mates rubbing paint on butts. It was a pretty strange thing to see on a screen in my home (this was well before the internet). Not sure I made it to the end of the tape, but I still own it. I love where Genesis is today, but my love is limited to seeing that he is now transgender and being happy that he is still being himself. I have formed ideas about Psychic TV employing my super non-rigorous evaluation process and have done the same with Wilco. They both pass. Where am I going with this? Certainly not trying to advocate for the casual consumption of art. If you want to pull it apart to study a partially digested last meal, be my guest. I guess I am just pointing out that dancing in my living room to loud music is a fine place for me to start and stop my relationship with a song.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: