Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Wilco has been out generating such good will and good media presence in advance of this album, I thought for sure it would see the group continue down the more mainstream path ventured on the previous release, 2009's Wilco (The Album).  Well, what a surprise to find this one starts with a lengthy, experimental cut, complete with guitar weirdness from resident experimenter, Nels Cline.  The second track, I Might, just might have been a pop cut on the last album, but here Cline is once again allowed to coax shrieking animals out of his amp.

The Whole Love is a mixed bag of songs by Jeff Tweedy, none of them ever allowed to be just normal.  Dawned On Me is a sunshine-filled number, but every time you think it's going to relax into a radio-friendly hit, something is dropped in to insure it will never, ever grace anybody's consultant-based playlist, even if it's just the slightly warbled whistling or tiny bit of feedback at the end.  Of course, Tweedy is an old hand at presenting things that are skewed.  The big surprise here is the number of ballads, real acoustic and introspective numbers that see the electric boys step back and the string section take over, plus a major role for Cline's lap steel.  Open Mind is a return to the country roots of the group, way back in the '90's, and it's almost shocking to hear Tweedy's voice in a relative normal setting, without Cline-effects or band craziness vying for equal attention.  It's basically a pretty little melody with a sadness thanks to his natural default vocal mood.  By the time his acoustic picking-Paul Simon-from-1966 number, Rising Red Lung, comes along at cut 10, you've forgotten this is the mighty, noisy Wilco.

Don't get comfy though.  Next comes a ditty.  Yes, I said ditty.  It's called Capitol City, and it's a little music hall melody, with a jaunty rhythm and a silly organ, and if Davy Jones had been its singer, it would have been on More Of The Monkees.  Wow, what a collection.  It's the opposite of a thematic album, rather it's a work that shows how much the band has going for it, how many great ideas are floating around when these artists get to play.  It's all over the place, in the way The White Album or Sgt. Pepper's is, and that makes it such a rewarding listen.  This is truly an experience, and has all the hallmarks of something I'll be listening to over and over again for years.  The disc of 2011, methinks.

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