If you don’t have it yet or haven’t found another place to check out Wilco’s latest, Sky Blue Sky, you can listen to a streaming version here. As you listen along, I’ll provide the thoughts inside your head.
The opening number, “Either Way”, is a tasty, mellow nugget, isn’t it? They don’t make cascading guitar solos like the one in this song any more – or they didn’t until now. What more can I say – what more can you say? Fine opener!
“You Are My Face” worried me for a minute. I thought they were opening their album with two mellow songs, which is OK if you’re someone else, but you and I like a little fire within the first 8 minutes of a new album. Sure enough, a spark is struck about a minute and a half into this bad boy, when a patented Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere guitar tone shows up and Tweedy and the rhythm section pick up the next verse as if under the direction of Rick Danko. Bring us down, faux Garth, and suddenly we’ve got Simon & Garfunkel doing the quiet verse from “The Boxer”. Now, take us out Garth-like organ player.
“Impossible Germany” is not pleasing us from the git-go. It sounds like some mush that might have come out of our radio circa 1975. I keep waiting for Mickey Thomas to take over the leads for a verse. Do I have time to grow my pinky nail longer, so I can do coke off it? Ooooh, check out Craig Chaquito on lead guitar! And here’s more. I feel a summer breeze. I hope these guys had shit-eating grins while recording this one.
Here comes the title track, “Sky Blue Sky”… Another mellow groove en route. Ah, the hushed Tweedy vocal. Only guys who can’t grow a proper beard spend this much time doing the hushed vocal softshoe routine. PASS! Sorry, Tasty Guitar Solo #4.
Here’s hoping that “Side With the Seeds” refers to gatefold albums and all that fun stuff, but I doubt it. Wasn’t Tweedy a pill popper? Only guys who can’t grow a proper beard spend all that time popping pills. Oh, that’s not nice, but this song’s gotta move on as well. But wait: the piano starts pounding and an electric guitar is building to an orgasmic crescendo. Is there an orchestra in the background, or is it just implied? Lo and behold, another Tasty Guitar Solo – now in harmony. Bring it down, Garth-like organ player… I didn’t really get off, but at least there was hope before the song returned to this dragging, poverty-stricken Richard Manual verse. Here it comes again: the orgasmic guitar build, now taking off into a sort of veiled sabre dance! Oh, baby! That wasn’t so bad after all.
“Shake It Off” is not making a good first impression, is it? I know you need something to hang your hat on around this time. We’re into, what, track 6, and we’ve yet to get rewarded with one toe-tapper or singalong number. Are there any blind listeners out there with us? Is there something in these songs that’s granting you eyesight? The electric piano and drums are picking up a funky little vibe, with some aggressive, phased guitar joining in. Now Tweedy’s “gonna shake it off…shake it off.” It’s clear a lot of people realy like this band, because they are taking liberties with us casual appreciators. I’m getting nauseous. A vaguely Steely Dan vibe keeps creeping into this one.
Here we go. I sense the toe-tapper, singalong number to raise my spirits. This song, “Please Be Patient With Me”, starts deceptively mellow. Yeah, Tweedy’s doing that beardless, hushed vocal thing again. Hold tight, my friend, this song’s going somewhere yet… Yeah, that picked guitar part’s going to build up a little head of steam. Oh yeah, here somes some Tasty Guitar. But not for long. Beardless Jeff is back at it again. Maybe this isn’t the “hit” my heart so badly needs.
“Hate It Here”! This one’s gotta have some balls. It must be about poppin’ pills and feeling like shit. Well, it opens with electric piano and a “Dark End of the Street” vibe. Ooooh, check out that tasty 7th chord! What a surprise, it’s a Tasty Guitar Solo! Man, I’m about to check the hell out of here. Are you with me? No? You wanna hang in a little longer? Hey, good move. Here comes a section that honors The Power and Glory of Rock! “Hate it here/When you’re gone”: now there are some lyrics to pop pills to! (At this point, I would like to apologize to any pill poppers reading today. I know I shouldn’t be so insensitive and judgemental. Bless you, and may you receive the help you need.) Here’s a little more of that P&G of R section, complete with a Let It Be-style instrumental trade-off. Ah, and here are some harmonized, tasty guitars to bring the song to an end.
“Leave Me Like You Found Me” is going to be real mellow, so at this time, my friend, I’ll do like the song says and let you finish up on your own, if you please. Enjoy. It was great hanging with you.
Thanks for this review. I didn’t plan on buying this CD, and now I may not even need to listen to it.
KingEd, that Starship video can’t be beat! Thanks. I’m about to check out this album myself.
Does anyone here know where I can score a lid of Skywalker?
I’ve got a line on a nickle bag of White Rhino.
Does the album have to have a ‘hit single’ to be a good listen? The musicianship is interesting here. This is more of a ‘player’s album’ than anything else.
Thank heavens, finally a new Jackson Browne album.
Whether the world needs a more mellow version of Ryan Adams’s Cold Roses is certainly open to debate, but as of now I’m digging it.
Sammy, I’ve got a friend who’s got a friend who’s got a line on “The Hog.” What do you say?
I dunno. My friend’s brother mixed “The Hog” one night with some super skunky “NYC Diesel” and got like some kind of brain damage.
i’d argue that this isn’t a “player’s album” as much as it is a “critic’s album”…
but that’s been my knock against wilco for a long time.
while it’s thoughtful, while it does “interesting” things … heady things, if you will, i just aint feelin’ it.
in fact, i can’t remember a band that more consistently leaves me empty while attempting to deliver such emotional music.
but that’s been my knock against wilco for a long time. and this album is no exception.
wilco is a band i never got. i mean, they’re fine, i guess. but all the adulation, all the critical acclaim, all the high-minded intellectual sounding stuff about how “important” this band is….
they’ve always sounded rather vanilla to me.
oh and by the way…i guess you could say that the above post reflects what has been my knock against wilco for a long time.
So Art, are you trying to say that you’ve felt this way about Wilco for some time, even before this album? Just want to make sure I read you correctly.
yeah, before this album…
and by the way, mr. mod….
don’t think i haven’t noticed that you’re ignoring my responses to your criticism of the Even Worse Wizard lineup.
Hey Art, I’m not criticizing your choices; in fact, I’m jealous of your Roy Wood selection. I’m just reporting the scuttlebutt that I hear in the hotel lobby here where this draft is being conducted. It’s not Me, the GM, or Me, the Commissioner, who’s saying this stuff but Me, a Reporter.
dude, are you like, quadrophrenic? what’s the fourth you? is it you….for a moment?
dude, choose rabbit bundrick to be in your band!
btw, i must compliment you on the rth fantasy band draft graphic.
also, my the headline “roy wood shocker!” really did crack me up.
i’m off to a job confernce. i’ll be back over the weekend…
rock on y’all…
All compliments to that RTH Fantasy Band Draft graphic may be directed toward my partner in crime, Jason. He’s the man!