Wilco

Star Wars (dBPM/Anti-)

Phases & Stages

Flexing unconventional brawn, Wilco debuted its spontaneous ninth LP with a zero-dollar price tag. From the moment guitarist Nels Cline's madcap m.o. emerges on cantankerous instrumental opener "EKG," zany space jams betray no trace of the Chicagoans' alt.country roots. Early on, glam sing-along "More..." and playful rocker "Random Name Generator" guarantee festival appeasement, while jovial "The Joke Explained" recalls Summerteeth with its toe-tapped rockabilly. Midway, downtempo stirrer "You Satellite" and theremin-flecked "Taste the Ceiling" rouse superlative, their spatial imagination and enigmatic lyrics warmly revisiting leader Jeff Tweedy's lately less-tapped poetic heart. Eleven tracks in 33 minutes, nothing nears the vulnerable beauty of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot's "Radio Cure" or "Poor Places," nor the heady frankness of Summerteeth's "Via Chicago." Formulaic song-structure stagnation lingers since the group's 2005 lineup overhaul and subsequent lackluster LP, Wilco (the Album). In fact, the sextet borders on complacency in its rock-ribbed space-rock safety net, despite that music's surface eccentricity and innovation. (Wilco revisits Stubb's Sept. 29 & 30.)

**.5

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