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.