Friday, July 17, 2009

Wilco (the album) - Review

Rating: ****

FROM THE chugging opening moment on the new Wilco album, as Jeff Tweedy opens his mouth - set against Nels Cline distorted guitar - the listener feels assured that this is another high-quality offering from the American outfit.
It takes a brave and comfortable band to not only mark their eighth studio album as a self-titled effort, but also to begin with an eponymous track, Wilco (the song).
"Are you under the impression/this isn’t your life?" growls Tweedy.
The chorus speaks for itself: "Wilco, Wilco, Wilco will love you baby".

Well, the feeling is mutual on this staggeringly consistent effort, following hot on the heels of 2007’s Sky Blue Sky.
In fact, on closer inspection, Wilco - in all their various forms, revolving around frontman and focal point Tweedy and bassist John Stirratt - are a staggeringly consistent band, producing an album nearly every other year.
After a 15 year career, Tweedy and co have finally settled on a line-up that feels solid and settled; and in guitarist Nels Cline, he has found the perfect foil for his off-centre lyrics and unorthodox voice.
Oft defined as alt-rock, or even, embarrassingly, alt-country - these definitions feel tremendously ill-defined for a band that has a myriad of influences, yet sounds fresh and inspired.

The release of this record was threatened with being overshadowed by the death of former member Jay Bennet, with whom Tweedy parted ways in 2001.
But, in reality, Wilco after Bennett have long been a different proposition, this incarnation of the band producing some of the finest and most cohesive music of the band’s career.

There are some staggering moments on this album; the frenzied, tubular distortion of Bull Black Nova is gripping, while in contrast, the Tweedy and Feist duet on You and I is a tender moment.
It seems the band have mined elements of 70s rock in You Never Know, while Country Disappeared is among Tweedy’s finest work, Stirratt’s bass lines a particular stand out, while the jazzy-countrified I’ll Fight will stick in your head long after listening.

An astonishingly solid effort from one of the finest bands around at this moment.

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