"Wilco (The Album)" by Wilco

Wilco
Wilco (The Album)

Nonesuch
2009

Review

The way I figure it, either you've never heard of Wilco or you loved their last album and played it over and over and over again...or you just don't do "mellow" when it comes to your music. Which is cool, different strokes and all that. Well, I'm definitely in the "loved Sky Blue Sky" camp. For those of us who loved their last album, I present another two camps: people who knew that Wilco had a knew album out and people who didn't. I guess this write-up is for either the people who don't mind mellow music and have never heard of Wilco or for the people who loved their last album and wanted to know if the new one was any good (hint: it is).

This album finds Wilco (at least from what I gather) at their tongue-in-cheek height. One look at the album cover should tell you that. It's got a camel in a birthday hat sitting in front of some empty chairs. The name of the record is "Wilco The Album". Well, in spite of appearances the album remains business as usual.

So what exactly is "business as usual"? Well, first of all, let me just say that I love the default genre classifications from iTunes's metadata provider Gracenote. This album shows up as "Country". I suppose you could say that Wilco makes country music, but I'm not sure die-hard country music fans would agree with that. I certainly don't. Wilco make mellow layered Rock music that sometimes comes with Country music accoutrements. Singer Jeff Tweedy does not - however - sing with a country twang (think Tom Petty rather than Garth Brooks). In fact, on this particular album there is but one song that I would classify as country ("You Never Know"). So I put Wilco firmly in the "Rock" genre and I like to say that when it comes to Wilco's use of the guitar that they "shred without shredding". Make no mistake, there is some incredible guitar work on a Wilco record, it's just that the songs themselves seem so subdued that it's sometimes hard to recognize the fact that the notes playing past your ears are indeed flying in rapid and difficult to reproduce fashion.

Let me get this out of the way as well, I think that "Sky Blue Sky" was a better overall album. That doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy this album though, I just think that maybe it isn't as accessible to new Wilco fans.

The show starts with probably the only song on the album that plays up to the aforementioned tongue in cheek title. On "Wilco The Song", Wilco take a moment to explain how when all else fails their music will be there to love you. This particular opening song made sense to me as a "recession song" in the sense that once I heard it I wondered if maybe the reason for the levity on the part of the band was to point out that even in difficult times it's still OK to enjoy life. Maybe the song "You Never Know" says it best:

Come on children, you're acting like children
Every generation thinks it's the end of the world
All you fat followers get fit fast
Every generation thinks it's the last
Think's it's the end of the world

As you would expect, the tone remains hopeful. For the non-initiated, the strongest argument in favor of Wilco I can make using the evidence provided on this album is the outstanding track "I'll Fight". This is perhaps the happiest song about the possibility of martyring yourself I have ever heard. I do think that this song is representative of Wilco at their best. Other standouts are "One Wing" and "Bull Black Nova".

Wilco for me are all about great songwriting. Yes, this is mellow music and you won't be doing much headbanging or window breaking to it. What you get here is simply great mellow Rock and fantastically constructed songs. If that sounds like something you'd be into, do yourself a favor and check out this album and its predecessor. If that doesn't sound like something you'd be into, no amount of words written on this page will change your mind...and that's OK. Once again...different strokes (to rule the world?).

4.000 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. Wilco (The Song) (02:59) 4
2. Deeper Down (02:59) 4
3. One Wing (03:42) 5
4. Bull Black Nova (05:39) 5
5. You and I (03:26) 4
6. You Never Know (04:21) 3
7. Country Disappeared (04:02) 3
8. Solitaire (03:04) 3
9. I'll Fight (04:23) 5
10. Sonny Feeling (04:13) 4
11. Everlasting Everything (04:00) 4