BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Wilco: The Whole Love (Warners)

 |   |  2 min read

Wilco: Sunloathe
BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Wilco: The Whole Love (Warners)

Artists who make lurching changes of direction often revert to prior form after a while: Certainly after U2's darker trilogy -- Achtung Baby, Zooropa and Pop -- they went back to their familiar stadium-shaped mainstream ballads, and Radiohead's most recent output has been more accessible than the unsettling Ok Computer and Kid A.

Even David Bowie -- after the "Berlin trilogy" of Low, Heroes and The Lodger in the Seventies -- reminded us of his own history on Scary Monsters then invited us to Let's Dance into the Eighties.

Wilco -- who turned left with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born in the early part of the last decade -- seemed to adopt a more user-friendly songcraft again on albums like Sky Blue Sky and Wilco (The Album).

No such concession to the casual listener opens this album which starts with static and kicks in a Kraftwerk-like electrobeat for a full minute before Jeff Tweedy's vocals enter singing about a wasteland. And the piece, Art of Almost, runs for more than seven minutes with the final half being strident guitar noise. It is thrilling of course, but not quite "Wilco will love you" which opened Wilco (The Album).

The album doesn't sustain that level of challenge -- I Might which follows borrows from the cheap end of mid Sixties organ-driven pop and New Wave equally, albeit splattered with more gritty textures and stuttering guitars -- but you certainly get the sense Wilco have edged towards the precipice again just to have another look into the abyss.

Tweedy's songs refers throughout to Wilco's long history and in the delicate ballad Open Mind (one of the few not duffed up by sonics) he takes you right back to their alt.country/Americana pre-history. 

The most familiar sounding songs here are the woozy and dyspeptic ballad Sunloathe which has a Lennonesque quality (around Lennon's Walls and Bridges era) and Dawned on Me which rides that easy lope of Heavy Metal Drummer on YHFoxtrot (with half-hearted whistling), albeit again allowing guitarist Nels Cline to strafe it with brittle interpolations.

Standing O is a snappy slice of driving Eighties pop-rock which sounds made for car radios. 

At the centre is the melancholy acoustic ballad Black Moon (echoes of very early Pink Floyd in psychedelic pastoral mode) and the battered pop of Born Alone, again with guitar stutter filling the spaces around lyrics like "I was born to die alone".

This is a Wilco album which often takes you to that edge of the cliff but often enough pulls you back for a quiet glass of wine and invites you to settle and consider.

And it ends with the low-key 12 minute One Sunday Morning (which has references to death and a loss of faith) which -- with the literary reference of its subtitle -- will doubtless be the subject of someone's doctorate.

A few pieces -- notably the throwaway Capitol City -- don't quite sit within this context, but for the most part this is a Wilco album to please those who like their more challenging material while offering more than enough for those who tuned in either side of that left turn.

Like the sound of this? Then check out this.

FOR OTHER 'BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011' ALBUMS GO HERE

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Hollywoodfun Downstairs: "The Mancunian Swing" (Muzai)

Hollywoodfun Downstairs: "The Mancunian Swing" (Muzai)

Things not quite in alignment here? One part concept album, another part “What I did on my holidays”, this debut from Wellington noise-rockers apparently documents singer Kurt... > Read more

Ruthie Foster: The Truth According to Ruthie Foster (Shock)

Ruthie Foster: The Truth According to Ruthie Foster (Shock)

This impressive soul-blues singer makes a guest appearance on the new Eric Bibb album Get On Board -- and Bibb contributes two tracks to this diverse collection of material which roams confidently... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Magnetic Fields: 69 Love Songs (2000)

Magnetic Fields: 69 Love Songs (2000)

Many years ago, because it was silly, I started picking up the odd tribute album. And tribute albums are odd indeed. Without much difficulty -- because tribute albums almost invariably end up... > Read more

PATRICIA PICCININI CONSIDERED (2014): Empathy and the art of the heart

PATRICIA PICCININI CONSIDERED (2014): Empathy and the art of the heart

The most common defense of intellectually bankrupt or emotionally empty contemporary art is that it “invites the viewer to ask questions”. This is reflexive curator-speak... > Read more