Wilco

Wilco (the album) (Nonesuch)

Phases & Stages

Wilco

Wilco (the album) (Nonesuch)

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. Sky Blue Sky, with its landlocked paucity of material, didn't want to be another guitar-lined Ghost, but given "Impossible Germany" probably should have been. Wilco (the album) resets the sextet back to pre-Foxtrot pop while furthering Americana avant-gardist Jeff Tweedy's Radiohead-like melodic sophistication. What it lacks in identity, perhaps a statement of purpose locked down by a title, the tightly produced, musically pointed Wilco compensates for in near-total coalescence. Its hope, vulnerability, and fears converse as one Tweedy. For all its eye-rolling use of the group's name as lyrical hook, opener "Wilco (the song)" provides its stated "sonic shoulder to cry on" as the album's obvious anthem, Nels Cline's road-burn guitar flare cutting the song's analog chug. Ephemeral follow-up "Deeper Down" cobbles together bits and pieces of stained-glass 1960s precociousness on the order of the Zombies even as subtle stunner "One Wing" takes flight next as a far stronger outgrowth of its predecessor's suitelike approach to melody. That Wilco's prerequisite stretch into atonality, the neurotic fidget of "Bull Black Nova," whose percussive keys recall Ghost highlight "Spiders (Kidsmoke)," seals the first third of the album with uncertainty is one of its few flaws. Fortunately, sweetly simple midpoint "You and I" brings the whole endeavor into hard focus, particularly as the Summerteeth Beatles-esque of "You Never Know" and its "Glass Onion" start-up combined with George Harrison "My Sweet Lord" guitar swoop buttresses it. Soft acoustic jiggle and gauzy slide on "Solitaire" caps both with an intimate acknowledgement that "I was wrong to believe in me only." Clustered lyrical loop "I'll Fight" then commits to one of the album's sharpest hooks. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers-ish "Sonny Feeling" and final "A Day in the Life" piano press of closer "Everlasting Everything" – 88 keys here are Ghost's six strings – bring Wilco's best CD since Foxtrot to a typically bittersweet Tweedy conclusion: Wilco, group, song, and (the album) – for better or worse – may be all we have.

***.5

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Wilco
Box Sets
Wilco
Alpha Mike Foxtrot (Record Review)

Neph Basedow, Dec. 12, 2014

ACL Music Fest Live Shots
Wilco
Sunday, Sept. 16, Zilker park

Doug Freeman, Sept. 21, 2007

More Music Reviews
Texas Platters
... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
X: The Godless Void and Other Stories (Record Review)

Alejandra Ramirez, Feb. 21, 2020

Texas Platters
Daniel Johnston
Chicago 2017 (Record Review)

Raoul Hernandez, Feb. 21, 2020

More by Raoul Hernandez
Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
Carrie Rodriguez's Laboratorio, itchy-O, Fontaines D.C., Ash Lauryn, Nas & Wu-Tang, and more

Sept. 23, 2022

Review: The Bearer's <i>Chained to a Tree</i> (Silent Pendulum)
Review: The Bearer's Chained to a Tree (Silent Pendulum)
Austin metalcore trio tightens the restraints

Sept. 23, 2022

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Wilco

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle