Wilco - The Whole Love
Wilco is arguably one the best alt-country-rock bands on the planet and has endured through a history that would have destroyed most bands. Since the release of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Wilco have become known as innovators in their field, consistently releasing strong albums. The Whole Love however doesn’t quite meet the standard that fans have come to expect from Tweedy and co.
That isn’t to say The Whole Love is bad. Jeff Tweedy is a masterful songwriter, a true rock poet and a brilliant musician. And Tweedy isn’t alone: Nels Cline is an amazing rock guitarist and long standing bassist John Stirratt fills out the low end beautifully. The second half The Whole Love is a dazzling piece of Americana. Bright clean guitars, crisp drums, warm bass lines and lyrics that will leave you longing for late nights chock full of whiskey, longing and love. ‘Open Mind’ and ‘Standing O’ are easily the best songs on the album. Both are lyrical standouts. On ‘Open Mind’ Tweedy sings: “the night’s too young but I still say, we are too old for cliché” – beautifully tongue-in-cheek but still speaking brightly to Tweedy’s life experience and poetic grasp of the world around him.
So what isn’t awesome about The Whole Love? ‘The Art of Almost’ is sort of an apt title for this album. The Whole Love just doesn’t quite get there. There are 12 great songs on this album and yet somehow it doesn’t feel quite like a cohesive piece and it creates a slightly unsettling feeling in the listener. The Whole Love lacks an overall climax and while the album opener ‘The Art of Almost’ comes in with a punch, ‘One Sunday Morning’ simply fades out leaving an unsatisfied and incomplete ring in the air.
The Whole Love will not be the album that replaces Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or A Ghost Is Born in the minds of Wilco fans but it will serve as a solid placeholder for what is possible for this amazing band.
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on 2011-10-17 tosnob Said:
There have really be two sides (at least) to Wilco's music in recent years. They have tended to create music that is firmly grounded in roots rock or alt country traditions, or they have let loose with sprawling experimental jams. On their new album The Whole Love (out September 27th), Wilco definitely tend towards the latter.
Wilco have often been characterized as the American Radiohead. That comparison isn't spot on, but there is some truth to it nonetheless. Both bands seem to get bored very quickly and have no fear letting their whims take them on musical excursions. Unlike Radiohead however, Wilco keep and organic feel to their songs, even on something spacey like the opener "Art of Almost", rather than going the overly processed inhuman route.
The arrangements and structure crawl, creep, and generally hang loose throughout the album. That can be smooth, like on the floating ballad "Sunloathe", or it can duck and swerve like on "Born Again".
The roots music influence never wavers though, rather, the band adds touches to enhance that sound instead of washing it away. On "I Might" that takes the form of a psychedelic keyboard. It's dream sequence effects that spur on the strolling "Capitol City". "Black Moon" has a dark bayou aura, despite the inclusion of a cello. A combination of propulsive beat, guitar squeal, and seemingly impromptu whistles make "Dawned On Me" a standout.
"Standing O" is pretty much a straightforward rocker, with a blistering guitar line, that should sate the alt country fans.
Personally, I prefer it when Wilco has a little bit more of a traditional structure to their songs. I find that I reach for an experimental album such as The Whole Love far less frequently. That said, there is plenty to like and discover on the record for those willing to put in the time and effort.