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Wilco (The Review)

By Christian H. | Music | August 5, 2009 |

By Christian H. | Music | August 5, 2009 |

wilco-the-album-thumb-450x450.jpgWilco: Wilco (The Album)
[Nonesuch Records]

As a person ages, it’s not uncommon for them to reminisce, to long for the glory days of youth, to regale anyone who will listen with tales of days gone by whether they want to hear about it or not. So it often is with musicians. Artists age as any person does, and after a certain amount of time it’s logical for them to recall some of the music that made them great and allowed them to last so long in such a turbulent industry. You can only hope these trips down memory lane are pleasing to the ear, ala Radiohead’s In Rainbows, and not too terribly self-indulgent to be listenable, ala Weezer’s Make Believe. Thankfully, Wilco draws more comparisons to Radiohead than to Weezer (in fact, Chuck Klosterman once famously referred to the band as “the American Radiohead”), and like that band’s most recent retrospective work, Wilco (The Album) is every bit as wonderful as we’ve come to expect from these legends of the alt-country genre.

Brilliantly keeping with the retrospective gloss that shines all over the work, Wilco’s Wilco (The Album) begins with “Wilco (The Song)”, an endlessly catchy and obviously tongue-in-cheek ode to the almost medicinally pleasing quality of the band. The music has tinges of every aspect of the band’s career. The fuzzy, Pavement-esque guitar, the rock/country swagger, and overall sunny vibe would fit beautifully in with any of the band’s previous albums.

Indeed, every song here sounds like it was plucked from previously unreleased recording sessions off of other records. “Bull Black Nova” could have squeezed in successfully on either Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or A Ghost Is Born, with its harder edge, darker tale, and more experimental sound. “You Never Know” could have stood strong on Summer Teeth. The rest often sounds like carry-over from the touching and haunting Sky Blue Sky, especially the wistful “Country Disappeared”. Throughout, you can hear Nels Cline rip through thrilling guitar solos as he has for two albums spent with the band. And Jeff Tweedy’s voice, as straining and soft as ever, is still adept at alternating between honest and comic.

Now, Wilco (The Album) will not convert detractors, though anyone who doesn’t at least respect Wilco (the band) is no friend of mine. And among Wilco fans, your feelings on their last two albums will likely determine how you take the band now, as those hoping for a new experimental masterpiece on the level of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot will probably be disappointed. But for those of you who, like me, think Wilco is really at their best sonically when they stick to the basics, you’ll be more than pleased.

Wilco (the band) has not broken the mold with Wilco (The Album), but it’s often through looking back that a band can see how to transform themselves in the future. Though, when a band is this good at what they do, it’s hard to want them to change.

Christian Hagen is a music journalist from Minneapolis (who is also in a band), who likes to waste his time writing about nothing, and who has yet to launch his own website (though one is on its way), so for now he can only link to his MySpace profile.

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TK Burton is an Editorial Consultant. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.