Wilco Will Love Ya
Wilco – Wilco (The Album)
June 30, 2009
Victim of Loudness War? Yes
Wilco has certainly gone through some significant changes since their creative breakthrough, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, was released in 2002. The band was let go from Warner Bros. Records after refusing to alter the aforementioned masterpiece to a more commercial standard and parted ways with key member Jay Bennett not too long afterward. Then came the beautifully complex A Ghost Is Born in 2004, followed by the overly-simplistic Sky Blue Sky in 2007. It seemed that despite including a strong group of new faces interpreting frontman Jeff Tweedy’s ever-growing songwriting ability, Wilco could just never reclaim the spirit that made their records up to Foxtrot such underground successes. Until now, that is.
Enter Wilco (The Album), the band’s latest entry into their massively accomplished repertoire. It is here that Wilco is finally able to recapture the magic included on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, in spirit if not in approach. Let there be no misunderstanding: Wilco (The Album) is not a continuation of Foxtrot‘s mixture of ambient noise and pop-rock sensibility. Rather, Wilco (The Album) builds upon the more straightforward approach of Sky Blue Sky, adding more colors to the palette to make it a more effective piece of straightforward rock. This could be attributed to the fact that for the first time, Wilco has retained the same membership from one album to the next, resulting in a six-piece band that is really comfortable feeding off of one another. The current line-up of Wilco is perhaps their most cohesive, the best example of a full band at work. Although the presence of Jay Bennett is still missed to a degree, Wilco (The Album) is the first proof that the band is capable of achieving a similar creative success without him as they did with him.
The album opens with “Wilco (The Song),” a quick piece of pop magic that provides the band with somewhat of an anthem and a title song for their fan base. In true Wilco style, however, the song gives way to “Deeper Down,” a complete 180-degree turn from its predecessor and proof that Jeff Tweedy still possesses the tools to write a song that can simultaneously break your heart and refill your hope. These two tracks give the album an amazing foundation upon which to build its incredibly strong structure.
“You Never Know,” a jangly track filled with Beach Boys-esque harmonies, could have come straight off of Summerteeth, yet never once leaves the listener feeling as though the band is trying to recapture their past glory. Rather, they are dabbling in familiar territory, proving that even though they have the astute ability to wander into very experimental territory, they can still pen a song that is filled with undeniable hooks. The same can be said for “I’ll Fight,” a beyond-catchy gem that could stand right alongside “Heavy Metal Drummer” as the band’s best pop-based tune. It’s this simplistic approach that makes the album such a success – the songs aren’t overwrought with the weight of their outlandishness. Instead, they are concise little grooves that demand multiple spins, a quality that was attempted on Sky Blue Sky but were not as successful as here.
The bottom line is that in their fifteenth year, Wilco is still crafting albums that are both melodic and relevant. Where most bands don’t possess the creative wherewithall to sustain themselves with such success past their second or third album, Wilco has kept things fresh and interesting throughout. Wilco (The Album), while not their most ambitious or creative, is certainly the band’s most consistently coherent album to date. And even though the hope that Jay Bennett would return has now sadly been ended with his untimely passing earlier this year, one gets the feeling that for the first time all the magic he bestowed upon Jeff Tweedy during their tenure as a songwriting team has finally emerged in his absense. And that is the most wonderful thing.
To purchase Wilco (The Album), please click here.
– Ian Rice
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