John's Track of the Week: "Passenger Side"

Song: Passenger Side
Artist: Wilco
Album: A.M.
Year: 1995

Admittedly, I've always found Wilco's debut studio effort, A.M., a bit underwhelming. Perhaps it still leans a bit too much on the sound of Jeff Tweedy's old band, Uncle Tupelo. Or maybe, it's just that I'm not a big fan of country, and the album touches more on those aspects than the alternative themes embraced later in the band's career. Regardless though, there is one track in particular that stuck out to me as a prelude to their later sound, and makes an effort to redeem the collection as a whole. That track is "Passenger Side."

The song just seems to grasp the various themes Tweedy focuses his time on in later writing, and though the lyrics read fairly straight forward, their delivery do hint at an air of ambiguity. Opening salvo, "Hey wake up, your eyes weren't open wide," by itself can mean a variety of things, and perhaps it's supposed to. For the remainder of the song, it appears Tweedy doles out complaints about being the passenger to another driver, and of course, drinking, which is always a subtle aspect of his songwriting. But the song can also function as a large metaphor. The relationship in question could be with a friend, or woman, and the driving critiques could be symbolic of his problems with their respective actions in life. Tweedy doesn't like not having control of a situation, as made apparent by the constant refrain of "I don't like riding on the passenger side." Metaphor or not, the message comes across loud and clear. Check it out below.

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