Friday, August 14, 2009

Wilco (The Blog Post)

Wilco (The Album)

It's rewarding, to keep pushing at something until you "get it." I didn't get past "Wilco (The Song)" the first five or six times I attempted to listen to this album. There was something about it that didn't sit right. I couldn't tell you what it is, and now that it's gone, I thoroughly enjoy it, but something wasn't hitting me in the right spot. Having said that, this morning, I cracked it open again, and I was delighted.

I cannot claim to be, nor have I ever posited, that I am an expert on Wilco. Theirs is a brand of music which has always eluded me. I own Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, A Ghost is Born, and Sky Blue Sky, but I've never really enjoyed any of them beyond the superficial. Having said that, I am one of the only people I know of who enjoy- enjoy- the buzzing, clicking soundscape at the end of "Less Than You Think," so I don't find their work completely alien. One of the strong points of Wilco has always been that, for all their sonic experimentation, Jeff Tweedy has always kept the melodies very plain, in a good way. The frames of these songs are simple; it's the clothes that are damn fancy.

Wilco (The Album), opening with "Wilco (The Song)," and put out by the presumably recently-rechristened Wilco (The Band), is assured. That's probably the best way to describe it. They know what they're doing, and they do it. This is not to say they have reached the point of Knowing How to Make a Good Record. No, no, nothing like that. Wilco have always kept that part of the process interesting. But here, with this album, we get the sense that things have leveled off, and now Tweedy might actually be having fun. The opening song is meant as a lark, and it's a good one. Just remember, "Wilco, Wilco, Wilco's gonna love you baby."

It's a bit of a return to the alt-country from which all post-Foxtrot works have deviated. "I'll Fight" is almost an entirely "normal" alt-country ditty, which, again, isn't a bad thing. This is the Wilco album I'm most likely to pop back on again in a year or two. "You Never Know" is one of the best George Harrison songs George Harrison never wrote. That sliding guitar part screams out All Things Must Pass, something you don't get that much of anymore. It's a nice touchstone. Having said that, this doesn't reach the artistically daring heights of their earlier albums, and, it turns out, beneath the flashy exterior, Tweedy's much more normal than some would like to think.

Grade: B

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