Wilco – Wilco (The Album)
It’s gratitude day again! As I mentioned in my Steve Vai – Passion And Warfare review, I recently received an awesomeness holidays gift from the illustrious Mike at mikeladano.com!
This Wilco record was in there too, but it’s special – it’s the Japanese import version! It has a bonus track! I know. As would we all be, I was floored.
Let’s check it out, shall we? We shall…
First off, it has a camel on the cover. I love it already.
OK, let’s go!
Wilco (The Song), a song title I love for an album opener for Wilco (The Album), is a jaunty Werewolves Of London-ish tune. Fun! Deeper Down stops and starts a lot, very gentle rocking and lots of cool instrumental jabs and interludes. For all that, it’s quite uplifting. I really liked this one!
One Wing is a haunting melody, yet still with the energy of a solid pop song. I heard shades of Radiohead in the music, the chord changes and the electronics. Bull Black Nova grooves along under a repetitive stabbing piano riff. We do get respite, but wow that gets tired quickly! The song woulda been just fine without it, though I suppose it does a measure of menace or, at least, divided attention. Get past that, though, and this song has a lot of cool stuff going on. The guitar solo is silky great.
You And I is the first time Wilco has ever featured a duet on one of their records, and it’s with Feist. It starts off strummy and builds into a dreamy, drifter of a track. The voices work well together.
You Never Know is, for lack of a better description, a typical Wilco song circa, say, Being There. It rocks, but not too hard… just right! Its lyrics are interesting, given our current times: “Come on children / You’re acting like children / Every generation thinks / Its the end of the world / And all ya fat followers / Get fit fast / Every generation thinks it’s the last / Thinks its the end of the world / Yes dream down a well / There’s a lone heavy hell / I don’t care anymore / I don’t care anymore / It’s a feeling we transcend / If we’re here at the end / I don’t care anymore / I don’t care anymore / You never know”
Country Disappeared is a gorgeous, elegiac track that left me wanting more when it was done. Solitaire continues the feel, softly and beautifully leading us through its twists and turns, with organ swells and lap steel guitar.
I’ll Fight has Motown soul while he talks about the horrible things he’ll do for you. Seriously, the music and the words here meet in jarring ways! Fascinating… Sunny Feeling is a bluesy rocker, a track I really loved. When it starts stomping, I’m lifted and gone, baby, gone!
Everlasting Everything soaks you in its rising and falling waves of tenderness and edge, with piano at the core and acoustic guitar to steady it. When the drums kick in, and then the strings, well sir, you know you’re in the presence of glory.
And that’s where the regular version of the album ends. Honestly, that’d be a lot to digest, all of it fascinating. But my version is the special Japanese import version, because that’s how Mike rolls! So I get one extra track:
Dark Neon starts off with an odd stomp but it quickly resolves into a mildly wild rocker that swaggers and swings its way through, buoyed by buzzing guitar and some damn fine bluesiness too. When it crashes to a close, it’s too damn soon. I don’t know why this didn’t make the main album!
I loved this record. Wilco gives us so many looks at the their incredible talents. Each track stands strong and makes you say ‘yes, this is beautiful and perfect.’ But then when the record is done, and you’re leaning back in your chair, the good headphones still strapped to your head, trying to collect your thoughts on everything you just heard, you realize that for as much as the songs work well alone, they also compile into one helluva winning album.
For those who love all the details, I’ve included two sections for your enjoyment:
1) This is what Jeff Tweedy said was the theme of the record (Wiki):
Tweedy summarised the main theme of the album as the acceptance of life’s uncertainties, stating:
“I think there’s a liberating nature to that concept […] It allows for a playfulness and an engagement in life that is more enjoyable than the alternative. I’ve aspired to convey some of those things for a long time now, maybe not so clearly before because it hasn’t been so clear to me. But I do believe that the greater ability you have to tolerate ambiguity, the more successfully you can steer your life. The alternative point of view—the complete dismissal of ambiguity, trying to rationalise irrationality—can be very destructive.”
This theme is manifested, for example, in the line from “Deeper Down” which goes “I adore the meaninglessness of the ‘this’ we can’t express.”
The album’s lyrics portray both dark and light subject matter, from “Bull Black Nova”, which is written from the point of view of a man who just killed his girlfriend, to the Feist duet “You and I”, which treats two lovers trying to keep a relationship together.
2) Here’s some more info (also Wiki):
Wilco (The Album)
Wilco released their seventh album, Wilco (The Album), on June 30, 2009. In March 2009, it was announced that singer-songwriter Feist would make a guest appearance on the new album, on the track “You and I”. Like their previous three albums, Wilco streamed the entirety of the album on its website prior to release. The album hit the charts at a career-high No. 4 with sales of 99,000 on the Billboard Top 200 Album chart as well as the No. 2 spot on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums chart. It marked Wilco’s third top 10 album on the U.S. pop chart. The album’s first single “You Never Know” reached the No. 1 spot on the AAA Chart, their first No. 1 in twelve years.
Beginning in April 2009, the band freely distributed a cover of Woody Guthrie’s “The Jolly Banker”, downloadable from their website. It was recorded at the Wilco loft in February of that year, at the suggestion of Guthrie’s daughter, Nora. Downloaders were encouraged to donate to the Woody Guthrie Foundation. Feist returned to accompany on the track, playing the Garden Weasel. The track eventually became unavailable for download. In October 2011, the website began streaming the track via a plugin.
On May 25, 2009, former band member Jay Bennett died in his home in Urbana, Illinois. In a prepared statement, Jeff Tweedy remarked that he was “deeply saddened” by Bennett’s death.
Feist and Wilco performed “You and I” on Late Show with David Letterman on July 14, 2009. In June during their West Coast tour, Wilco joined Beck, Feist, Jamie Lidell and James Gadson in the studio to take part in Beck’s Record Club project, covering Skip Spence’s Oar album. The first song “Little Hands” was posted on Beck’s website on November 12, 2009.
On April 6, 2010, Wilco announced during their Boston performance that they would be headlining and curating a festival in North Adams, Massachusetts, dubbed Solid Sound Festival. The event ran at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art from August 13–15, and featured various Wilco side projects, including The Autumn Defense, Pronto, The Nels Cline Singers, and Jeff Tweedy solo. Other bands who appeared included Mavis Staples, Avi Buffalo, Outrageous Cherry, Richard Bishop, The Books, and Vetiver. It also featured non-musical media, such as the Bread and Puppet Theater and comedians Todd Barry, Kristen Schaal, John Mulaney, and Hannibal Buress as well as interactive musical installations by Cline and Kotche. In November 2016, the band also curates their own program during the tenth Anniversary Edition of Le Guess Who? Festival in Utrecht, The Netherlands. This curated program includes performances by amongst others Tortoise, Bassekou Kouyaté, Lee Ranaldo, Fennesz, Steve Gunn, William Tyler and The Cairo Gang.
Wilco’s contract with Nonesuch ended in 2010 and they formed their own label. Wilco announced via their web site and Twitter page on January 27, 2011 that the new label will be called dBpm Records (Decibels per Minute) and will be run out of the offices of their manager, Tony Margherita, in Easthampton, Massachusetts.