Dec 082011
 

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That other main song template I find myself skipping over on Wilco’s new album is their mellow style, characterized by a bed of swirling Wurlitzer organ, tinkling piano, and Tweedy singing in the voice of a dying Confederate soldier taking his last breaths while clutching his newborn son to his chest. When songs like “Sunloathe” and “Rising Red Lung” start up I first try to gauge how their latest effort at writing a “Whispering Pines” will stack up before briefly trying to imagine what it must be like to prefer downers to uppers. Then I hit SKIP. Life’s too short for more than one of those songs on any artist’s album. Wilco’s too decent an attempted great band, too loaded with gently chugging numbers like “The Whole Love” to drag listeners down with that stuff.

The band also finds time to indulge in a wholly experimental side, which I can appreciate. It’s yet another part of their attempted greatness. The Whole Love, for instance, kicks off with a 7-minute, 15-second “Art of Nothing,” which makes me think they were listening to Radiohead and mid-period Roxy Music. I like it. I even admire the sickening self-indulgence of “Capitol City.” The production shifts are ambitious and well done, if loaded with all the proctomusicalogical baggage a Jon Brion could imagine. As much as I appreciate this kind of stuff, though, it inevitably makes me hate myself, like I feel after eating an entire box of Chicken in a Bisket.

I’ll keep trying with Wilco and continue digging the really enjoyable songs, especially when I give their albums a couple of months off between spins, to keep them fresh.

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  10 Responses to “Wilco, Then and Now: The Whole Love

  1. I enjoyed this review and look forward to your other thoughts on Wilco, KingEd. I used to love this band, but we’ve grown apart. This album has a couple of good songs (“Art of Almost,” “I Might”), but a lot of boring stuff. I agree with you, the snoozy songs all pretty much blow.

  2. Happiness Stan

    I’ve always liked the idea of Wilco, but haven’t spent a lot of time with their records. Saw them quite a long time ago at Glastonbury, around the end of the 90s probably, just what was called for on a warm and mercifully dry afternoon. I always got the sense that they were a bit hit and miss. So which would be the entry album, and why? I’m prepared to give it a go.

  3. I love the concept of Wilco. And they seem like really nice guys. But while I enjoy a number of their songs, their music ultimately strikes me as being too boring. It’s high-quality modern rock by the numbers. There aren’t very many lyrics out of place, and the occasional out-of-place musical elements sound calculated.

    In the world of rock music, I don’t think it’s enough to be very good at what you. You’ve got to be a little off, or wild, or surprisingly new, or just plain brilliant to be interesting. I’m missing that with Wilco, but it’s not for a lack of trying (both by me and the band).

    Really they are just too earnest for me.

    • My favorite Wilco albums are not by Wilco per se: Loose Fur and the Glen Kotche solo album. I haven’t really heard the older stuff, though, but it all seems of-a-piece as I understand it, so it may not matter so much which one you start with.

      I do have a decent method for trying to answer your question applicable to any random band: if their first album is good for newbs, it’s probably their best album.

  4. cliff sovinsanity

    Thanks for the read, King Ed. I was going to submit a thread over the Christmas break describing my desire for Wilco (read Jeff Tweedy) to disband immediately and form a new band. Preferably with a co-writer/guitarist on par with Jay Bennett.
    See, I used to love Wilco big time. Of course, I preferred Tweedy’s material over Jay Farrar in Uncle Tupelo. The first 4 Wilco albums are treasures in my collection. But it all started to fall apart after I saw the movie I Am Trying To Break Your Heart. A statement was uttered that would forever sour me on Wilco. Actually it was Jay Bennett of all people who was describing the philosophy of the songs on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I’m paraphrasing but it went something like this
    “There our songs. We created them, so we can destroy them if we want to.”
    What! Screw that. I’m sorry, but not only is that pretentious it shows what a complete lack of respect Wilco(see Jeff Tweedy) has for their fans. I have never been able to warm up to anything that follows. The self indulgent A Ghost Is Born proves my point. The song are either overproduced or reduced to the shell of anything resembling soul or passion.
    Phew, I’m glad I got that off my chest.

  5. jeangray

    I enjoyed “Dawned on Me.” I read a review that compared that track to ELO, and the prospect of Wilco doing it’s take on Jeff Lynne intrigued me. I’m a sucker for that shit.

  6. I kind of agree with King Ed’s last point that if you let Wilco go for a bit and then put on the CDs, you appreciate them more.

    I just listend to A.M. the other day — I like Box Full of Letters and Passenger Side more today than I did it when the album came out. I liked Being There right out of the box, but I kind of ignored Summerteeth at first and now it’s close to the top of the stacks.

 
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