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Wilco (The Album) sounds, feels good

August 27, 2009
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Wilco - (The Album)

Wilco (The Album)
June 30, 2009

Rating: 6.9/10

Fourteen years, five former members and seven studio albums later, Wilco has put together an album that sounds like a group effort.

Of course, there is no discredit to any of the Chicago septet’s former works; to tarnish anything in their back catalog would be slanderous.

However, there is something different in “Wilco (The Album)” that resonates throughout all 11 tracks. It’s an intangible essence of the album that can best be described as cohesion.

The band’s last album, “Sky Blue Sky,” was the incarnation of the group’s first album together in the studio. “A Ghost Is Born,” the 2004 Grammy Award winning album, came at a time when the band was still sorting through their issues after losing long time band member and producer/co-writer Jay Bennett.

The credits on “Ghost” explain everything about the album, as each song has a differentiation for who the band was for that particular song. This attribution alone dictates that it was not a total group effort.

“Sky Blue Sky” did take the band in a new direction exploring their folk-rock roots with new members Nels Cline, Mickael Jorgenson and Pat Sansone. The album displayed a much quieter version of the band that played up the beauty of their music and lead singer Jeff Tweedy’s unique raspy vocals.

“Wilco (The Album)” continues to utilize these important aspects from “Sky,” but has a comfortable sound that lends itself to the poppy nature of the gems that litter this offering.

As a band, Wilco seems to have remembered the traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus song structure that brought them initial success.

There are no 15-minute noisy, wandering songs or extended guitar solos descending into walls of feedback. This album sounds like the effort of a band that is comfortable with who they are and do not need to experiment in the studio to find something new to offer.

“Wilco” manages to stay in the “short and sweet” range, with the murderous “Bull Black Nova” coming in as the album’s longest song at five and a half minutes.

Instead, jaunty pop gems like “Sonny Feeling” and sweet ballads like “You and I” adorn this album.

“You and I” features a duet with Candian folk-singer Leslie Feist whose 2007 album “The Reminder” was nominated for two Grammy Awards.

Among the treasures found on this 11 song album is “I’ll Fight.” A simple song with a snappy rhythm backed by a swirling organ and delicate slide guitar. The lyrics evoke strong religious themes, something not unfamiliar for Tweedy, who has sung about the topic previously with other bands.

Another standout song from the album is the toe-tapper “You Never Know,” which the band played on Late Night with Conan O’Brien recently.

More than anything else, this album shows that the band has a sense of humor.  Tweedy’s writing most often has been more akin to poetry set to song, but this album displays a lighter side to his work.

The humor is most evident in the title and first song, “Wilco (The Song)”, in which Tweedy croons: “Do you dabble in depression?… Are you being attacked?… Wilco will love you, baby.”

And Wilco does love you, and it seems that with this album they have really come to love themselves. For that, and for this album, the fans can love them right back.

Originally posted at The Daily Vidette.

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