Release Date: Jun 30, 2009
Record label: Nonesuch
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative, Country
Chicago's veteran alt-rockers haven't sounded this much fun in ages, their seventh album balancing their easy-going and experimental sides..
Rock & roll lifers that they are, Wilco knows the implications of a self-titled album, how any record bearing an eponymous name is bound to be seen as a reintroduction. That's why they puncture Wilco (The Album) with a parenthetical aside, a slyly ironic joke that deflates the notion that Wilco is returning to its roots while signaling that the band is finally lightening up again, a notion reinforced by the camel birthday party on the cover. And, to be fair, "reintroduction" is indeed too strong a term for a band that never went away, they merely spent a decade-and-a-half on a walkabout, consuming anything that came their way, changing their tone and tenor from record to record.
Wilco's eighth album is breezy, reared-in-the-70s fare that flirts with the noisier elements of 2004's A Ghost Is Born but never gets as light as 2006's Sky Blue Sky. Wilco fanatics would probably even call it dull. [rssbreak] But take off the Wilco-coloured glasses and view this album on its own, without comparisons to earlier material, and you'll find a solid collection of songs.
At this point in Wilco's 15-year history, the band have been a lot of things, all of them sort of nebulous: alt-country, Americana, neo-folk, quasi-experimental, and, if you insist, "dad rock." Miraculously, the disparate strains within the group's catalog have somehow flowed together into a unifying aesthetic, largely due to Jeff Tweedy's distinctive singing voice and remarkable consistency as a songwriter. Though their previous releases, particularly the schizoid A Ghost Is Born, have embraced this eclecticism, the band's seventh proper LP, Wilco (The Album), does just what the title implies, and consolidates their style into a coherent statement of identity. This is something of a mixed blessing.
Jeff Tweedy’s decision to give Wilco’s new album the most? prosaic moniker in rock history initially seemed like evidence of his dry wit. Listening to the band’s seventh studio collection, you have to wonder if that choice isn’t also a subconscious admission that his ideas cupboard is temporarily bare. ”Wilco will love you, baby,” Tweedy sings on the opening midtempo rocker, ”Wilco (the song).” But fans of the band are more? accustomed to being challenged than adored.
A reasonable question to ask of Wilco (the album) – particularly given its definitive title – is exactly which Wilco we’re being offered here. Recent years have seen us graced with the yearning soundscapes of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, the migraine-approximating krautrock of A Ghost Is Born and the polished (if rather unexciting) gait of Sky Blue Sky. Of course, throwaway descriptions paint a picture far from complete.
Wilco’s success is largely due to their ability to continually surprise, if not outright confound, their audience. Their first five albums saw the band transform from alt-country torchbearers to Wall-of-Sound sculptors to post-rock deconstructionists. Facilitating this transformation was a steady rotation of band members, moving both into and then out of the ranks, eventually leaving frontman Jeff Tweedy and bassist John Stirratt as the only two original members.
Its release may have been overshadowed by the recent death of former member Jay Bennett, but in all other respects the seventh Wilco album contains no great shocks: it's well written, nicely produced and tastefully retro, with a few vaguely experimental bits. An eponymous title this late in a band's career suggests the album is one of two things: definitive, or just typical. It opens strongly with Wilco (the Song), a propulsive chugger that's half Velvet Underground, half Peanuts theme tune, and wholly a pleasure.
(The Album) is Wilco's seventh studio LP in a glittering fifteen year career. To celebrate its release, we asked a handful of No Ripcord scribes to contribute reviews of the record. The average score shown above may be subject to change as more reviews are added. . . .. Tom Whalen:.
The strength in Wilco‘s music was always their successful ability to re-create themselves with every new album. There were the country stylings of A.M., the double album, role reversal of Being There, sharpening their pop leanings with Summerteeth, the experimentation on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, the furthering of styles and diversity on A Ghost is Born and the live setting, laid-back feel of Sky Blue Sky. It’s hard to really pin-point a band’s catalog in such a way that it seems off-putting, however, Wilco has always been a band’s band, and one of the best ones, at that.
The Beatles' White Album and Metallica's black blockbuster included – and countless eponymous albums and songs in between – self-titled discs telegraph both a certain absence of inspiration (a name for the work) and either obstinacy or hubris in its creators eschewing the need for a brand regardless of the effort's quality. All three characteristics mark Wilco's seventh studio LP, Wilco (the album), the latter two par for the course, and artistic stimulus still something of a slippery slope in the continuing wake of the Chicagoans' recorded peak, 2002's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Successive 2004 haunt A Ghost Is Born remains somewhat analogous to Radiohead's Kid A, more extension than reinvention but still face lift enough that its spin-off, Sky Blue Sky (2007), gets relegated to Amnesiac status.
Stream Wilco's Wilco (The Album) in its entirety here.--Former bandmates travel familiar territory Wilco: Wilco (The Album)[Nonesuch]74/100Son Volt: American Central Dust[Rounder]61/100Admittedly, a joint review of the latest albums from Wilco and Son Volt is a bit unfair. It’s been 15 years since the two bands rose from the ashes of Uncle Tupelo, and both quickly left their progenitor behind in terms of musical style, lyrical maturity and commercial success. No matter how influential Uncle Tupelo was (and that’s certainly debatable), the band released only four albums in its seven-year history.
On the back of entirely derivative “experimentation,” bullshit controversy and I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, perhaps the most painfully dull rockumentary imaginable, Wilco has become Exhibit A in the case against 21st Century rock stardom. Since then, they’ve been pretty much treading water. But, hey – let’s check in. Maybe their new stuff has clues about the next al Qaeda attack! As of ‘09, they’ve solidified their lineup (perhaps bandleader Jeff Tweedy has become less of the narcotized bully that drove out try-hard nerd Jay Bennett, the one guy who seemed to have any skin in Wilco’s artistic game (R.I.P.)).