Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Review of Wilco's The Whole Love

The Whole Love is Wilco's eighth studio album and the first on the band's own label, dBpm records. It is also Wilco's best album since 2004's A Ghost is Born. The Whole Love has plenty of variety. Interviewed in the latest issue of Rolling Stone, frontman Jeff Tweedy says, "It sounds like Wilco, but with something that feels new and fresh."

The album is bookended by its longest and best tracks, "Art of Almost" and "One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley's Boyfriend)." The latter was also the highlight of Wilco's Boston concert I attended on September 20th. "One Sunday Morning" clocks in at twelve minutes and has a beautiful acoustic guitar medley with an equally beautiful piano accompaniment. "Art of Almost" recalls the experimental rock of Ghost and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, with the added benefit of some great guitar work by Nels Cline toward the end. Says Tweedy, "There's a certain faction of Wilco fans that I think has felt maligned by the directness of the last couple of records. 'Art of Almost' scratches that itch for them." In another interview, he remarks that the type of song like "Art of Almost" fits best at the beginning of an album, and wryly laments some people's dismissal of Sky Blue Sky because of its especially mellow opening track.

Were it not for "One Sunday Morning" the louder songs on the album would steal it. There are numerous relatively quiet songs on the album, perhaps more than there should be because of how powerful the more rocking songs are, leaving the listener eager for more of them. Despite how rich the album is sonically, Tweedy's lyrics still captivate. Some standouts include "You won't set the kids on fire / Oh but I might" from "I Might" and "Sadness is my luxury" from "Born Alone." "Open Mind" has strong lyrics (but it's a shame that the song is somewhat boring musically): "I would throw myself underneath / The wheels of any train of thought / Running off the rails or sail you through / The rogue waves of your brain." In "Sunloathe," Tweedy sings, "I kill my memories / With a cheap disease." He remarks, "A lot of 'Sunloathe' is mocking the internally manufactured abyss of addiction. It's a common thread in a lot of my songs--being angry at my own self-pity, or self-pity in general, in the face of real suffering in the world."

This is Wilco's third album with its current lineup of six talented musicians and its strongest together. A few critics have pointed to the variety of the songs on the album as making it seem disjointed--sure, it's not the most coherent, but it is a quality album and one of Wilco's better efforts.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

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