Wilco – Wilco (The Album)

wilco

Rating: ★★½ · ·

Everyone always has Wilco on the mind.  No matter where you go, you find someone you know that adores Wilco, which is acceptable, as they’ve managed to put out some phenomenal records. The question on everyone’s lips will be whether or not Wilco (The Album) will be one of those feats of greatness, or something along the lines of Sky Blue Sky. More than likely, once everyone has listened for an ample amount of time, it will lean more on the side of their later work rather than their earlier strengths. Alas, such is the life for a band of such stature.

One of the strengths of this album is that Jeff Tweedy has his voice way up in the mix, which provides die-hard fans with a chance to get more acquainted with him.  He seems quite a bit more assured here, as if he finally has come to realize that his voice is truly the backbone of the band, and without him they fail.  In all honesty, his voice is the best thing that runs throughout the album; it seems as if he would succeed to greater lengths if he just went it on his own.

This is where the album seemingly misses its mark.  Nels Cline has taken the reigns from Tweedy, and he now has control over the group. It’s much like the presence of Jim O’ Rourke; he has the ability to add greatness to a song, but the power to destroy it in various moments.  His guitar work meanders through the songs, but haphazardly, which decreases his strengths, and that of the band.  Nels, and the band, travel into territory that seemingly adds little to the progression of the songs as a whole, bringing the listener to a point of indifference.

“You and I,” however, is one of the best songs the group has ever written. Sure, the presence of Feist doesn’t ever hurt anyone, aside from being played on various iTunes commercials, but the song itself exemplifies the gifts Tweedy possesses as a songwriter. It’s on of the more straightforward songs, and it demonstrates Tweedy at his best, without the tampering of Nels Cline.  “Solitaire” is another such song where Tweedy seems to go it alone.  You can’t deny the power of his voice in such a song, and you can’t deny the intimacy with which he sings.

But, at the end of the day, the band lacks much of the interesting moments they’ve maintained on previous releases. Their formulaic styling as of late leaves much to be desired, and it seems as if its rendered the band rather mundane.  While they once peaked your interest with various approaches to Americana, they seem to have dwindled far away from those moments, instead settling for the most basic song elements.  So you find the band traversing such territory, dancing with tried and true strategies, while fading away with their modern twists on the genre.  Sadly, it just doesn’t garner much interest for listeners, which is a place Wilco fans never thought the band would go.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/05-you-and-i.mp3]

Dowload: WIlco – You and I [MP3]

3 comments

  • jimmy (whiksey!) rhea

    Yes, don’t get me wrong, I love me some Nels but damn… he’s getting too busy.

  • Counterpoint:
    http://www.avclub.com/articles/wilco,29788/

    “…But structurally, the album is cleanly cleaved between the sing-along Wilco and the freeform Wilco. And when the former begins to overcome the latter, the album suffers….”

    To each his own I guess. I like both sides.

  • I just think too many of these songs have obvious long slow gaps in them so Nels Cline can “jam” during the live shows. Obviously not being in the band no one can truly say if this is a conscious decision, but it seems like a lot of these songs are written so Nels Cline can have 10+ minutes to go off live. They are slowly turning into a jam band with lackluster lyrics and boring as hell albums.

    I’m not going to be one of those people that cries for YHF, but I’d take Summer Teeth, Being There, AM, or even A Ghost is Born in place of this. Wilco has turned into a soft rock, KGSR ready band who have lost all traces of pop sensibilities and alt-country stylings. It’s just too boring.

    I do agree that You and I is legit. It reminds of the old days.

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