The Whole Love
Sep 26, 2011 Web Exclusive
The latest Wilco album further drives home the fact that, while there would be no Wilco without leading light Jeff Tweedy, the group is hardly Tweedy-plus-accompanists. The Whole Love, their first on the band's own dBpm imprint, is a record performed by a bunch of players who are utterly comfortable in the collective skin that they shed on a regular basis.
The Whole Love finds the band in a warm, amiable mood, with the dozen tracks revealing a bit more diversity in approach than 2009's Wilco (The Album) and considerably more immediacy than 2007's Sky Blue Sky. The opener, "Art of Almost," starts the clock in an experimental mood, with electronic pulses and an irregular beat giving way to a sudden wash of strings that welcomes Tweedy's vocals. Everything breaks loose for a wild dash of a big finish, with a mad guitar solo that sounds like Rhys Chatham trying to scare off Lynyrd Skynyrd and claim "Free Bird" for his own personal use.
As the album unfolds, it becomes apparent that the lead-off track is this set's most fringe-chasing moment, after which the band settles into something resembling a more conventional outing. The compact, fuzzy rock of "I Might" could have been a Summer Teeth outtake, with restrained guitar howl playing over straightforward drumming and tasteful organ. "Capitol City" has a jaunty, old-fashioned vibe, while the mid-tempo twang of "Whole Love" could have fit comfortably in the mix on Grateful Dead's American Beauty.
Some of the album's most arresting moments come as the dust settles. "Sunloathe" channels George Harrison with a gorgeous, meandering melody carried alternately by shimmering keyboards and understated, varied guitar interplay, and the gentle "Open Mind" features Tweedy at his most open-hearted.
It's with the tension-building and inventive interplay of "Born Alone" that you'll feel moved to cheer Wilco as they ride toward its rousing finish. And if "Dawned On Me" plays like the set's obvious, upbeat single, it's coming from a band that, on their eighth studio album, is as elusively and pleasingly unobvious as ever. (www.wilcoworld.net)
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