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Wilco - Wilco (The Album) (Cover Artwork)

Wilco

Wilco: Wilco (The Album)Wilco (The Album) (2009)
Nonesuch

Reviewer Rating: 3


Contributed by: JeloneJelone
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This year, I fell for Wilco (the band). Hard. It started with 1996's double-disc Being There, a chance purchase that hooked me right away with opener "Misunderstood." Ignoring the fact that it's alt-country and not out-and-out rock ‚??n' roll, it spoke to me like Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run minus the gang violence. I too was "short on long term goals" and "so misunderstood" and such. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot followed, and it was even better. Frontman Jeff Tweedy hit me with another strong opener, "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," and he did so seemingly effortlessly. Summerteeth finally confirmed it; I was a fan.

So I suppose there are pros and cons to hearing Wilco (The Album) mere months after falling in love with the band's best songs. Had I been around earlier, maybe I wouldn't be as disappointed by its laid-back quality. Some bands benefit from time numbing the sweet taste of their successes (God damn you, Cursive). Maybe I'm taking Wilco's discography for granted. But at the same time, I feel that, with "Heavy Metal Drummer" and "Ashes of American Flags" and a bevy of Billy Bragg covers fresh in my mind, I might be the one to call the slightest of bullshits on the bevy of praise Wilco (The Album) has garnered so far.

Wilco (The Album) is an OK record. It's not bad. It's not brilliant. It is just OK, like a lot of the albums great bands tend to put out later in their careers. The record combines bits of humor and the macabre, but for the most part, it's just a reliably solid alt-country disc.

"Wilco (The Song") opens with self-aware Wikipedia humor. "Are you under the impression / this isn't your life?" asks Tweedy. "Do you dabble in depression / Is someone twisting a knife in your back?" he presses, as if he doesn't know my answer. "Wilco / Wilco / Wilco will love you baby," he reminds me over chiming bells and pounding drums. It's no "Misunderstood," but it's still a welcome set of "aural arms open wide / A sonic shoulder for you to cry on."

"Deeper Down" dials down the energy a little, with gentle steel guitar. Everything is easy/breezy until the record's middle or so, when "Bull Black Nova" and "You and I" hit. Summerteeth's "She's a Jar" casually dropped domestic abuse references, but "Nova" goes even darker, detailing a murderer's paranoid perspective -- "They're coming up the shoulders / What have they found? / I wonder if they know / I'm in a bull black Chevy Nova / silhouetted by the setting sun." Coming mere minutes after the goofs of "Wilco (The Song)," it's shockingly frank, with its list of all the places the victim's blood can be found. Claustrophobic piano and guitar lines make it all the more foreboding. In contrast is "You and I," a love song featuring guest vocalist Feist. The tune pledges fidelity and hope in spite of miscommunication and mistrust. A tender track, it retroactively makes "Bull Black Nova" all the more disturbing, as if it were its prequel.

After that tender number, though, the record drifts into a haze. All of a sudden, you're at the twinkling outro of "Everlasting Everything" and the album is over. Images of Tom Petty and George Harrison float by (especially during "You Never Know," which bites from "My Sweet Lord"). While Wilco's records aren't perfect, they've never so steadily slipped into such a relaxed, bland state. Which is perhaps why I feel so let down. Wilco (The Album) is pleasant, but I've spent the first half of 2009 being completely blown away by Wilco (the back catalog).

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
DuffB (July 24, 2009)

Pretty underwhelming. About the same as Sky Blue Sky.

thedude (July 23, 2009)

good review. i have similar thoughts on the sound of this album. but what's up with the cursive comment? with each album they get better, even though the sound is not as urgent? i'm not understanding the sentiment here. huge cursive fan needs an explanation!!!

flakjacket (July 23, 2009)

Billy Bragg covers? You must mean the Woody Guthrie covers Wilco did with Bragg on Mermaid Ave, volumes 1&2.

telegraphrocks (July 22, 2009)

Yup.

R3vengeTherapy (July 22, 2009)

All this time and I've never given Wilco a single chance, and I don't know why. I'm listening to Being There right now and I'm finding a lot to like. I've been missing out.

I'll probably wait awhile to move through their catalog.

Jelone (July 22, 2009)

Seed - Go read the lyrics to "Meeting Across the River" and "Jungleland." Remember what happened to the Magic Rat?

SloaneDaley (July 22, 2009)

I actually really enjoyed Sky Blue Sky. I picked this up last week but as of yet have not had a chance to listen. good review.

badseed (July 22, 2009)

it spoke to me like Bruce Springsteen‚??s Born to Run minus the gang violence

Gang violence on Born To Run? What on earth are you talking about?

Anyway, haven't heard this yet but I doubt it'll top the Wilco holy trinity of Being There, Summerteeth and YHF.

DrGunn (July 21, 2009)

recommend me an uncle tupelo album.

i remember back in the day i had an mp3 of them playing black flag's "gimme gimme gimme" country-style and i was under the impression that uncle tupelo was a dude's stage name (not a band) and that his music was an intentional joke, ala richard cheese. imagine my surprise when i discovered they were a real band that weren't just a silly gimmick!

thus_spoke_sean (July 21, 2009)

@ Hatinghate

I can understand where you are coming from, I just don't really care for the music on A Ghost... or Sky.

Simple as that.

HatingHate12283 (July 21, 2009)

Reading this review and the comments that followed the review make me feel old. I feel like to appreciate this record, you kind of had to progress with the band. Not only have many lineup changes been made since the days of YHF, but Jeff Tweedy seems to have come to terms with many of his demons, which has obviously affected the songwriting. I like the record and feel like maybe I just understand it a little more than some of the newer fans. I don't mean that to sound as pretentious as it might. For anyone new to the band, Being There is a good place to start...

Jelone (July 21, 2009)

Greg - You are correct sir. I'm kind of at a crossroads, though. I really don't see Sky Blue Sky or A.M. being better than what I have. I'm not quite ready to revisit Ghost, which is what originally turned me off from the Wilco bandwagon to begin with.

chickswithdicks (July 21, 2009)

It's all been downhill since YHF.. I was really hoping this would be better; I wouldn't say it's bad but I wouldn't say it's that good.

thus_spoke_sean (July 21, 2009)

been meaning to check this out for a while, but I really didn't like Sky Blue Sky, and think that A Ghost Is Born, was just ok.

but man, I LOVE Yankee

holy_hack_ben (July 21, 2009)

I agree with the dude a few posts down. Score is for Uncle Tupelo.

greg0rb (July 21, 2009)

Boy Joe, you haven't gotten Sky Blue Sky yet, have you? Prepare to be really disappointed by that one. That is their safe album. I'm not saying it's band, but people like myself like (The Album) a lot because it actually brings a bit of noise and variety back to their sound. I dig this album, but yeah definitely not their best by any stretch.

ollywood (July 21, 2009)

haven"t listened to this, but great review

hello-rockview (July 21, 2009)

I've never been able to get into Wilco. Jeff Tweedy's first band Uncle Tupelo is a million times better. They pretty much invented the whole alt-country thing back in the late 80's and put out nothing but amazing albums. Wilco is way overrated and Uncle Tupelo over looked by everyone.

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