Wilco: Cousin (dBpm) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, June 19th, 2024  




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Following up on last year’s countrified masterwork Cruel Country, Chicago’s finest return with their first album since 2007’s Sky Blue Sky to be guided by an outside producer. Welsh renaissance woman Cate Le Bon is at the helm here, and under her watch Wilco are once again able to delve into the depths of the unusual, the unexpected and beautiful which typified much of their “golden era” work.

Some of the dark social commentary which characterized much of Cruel Country carries over in Jeff Tweedy’s lyrics here, particularly on “Ten Dead” with its bleak refrain “Ten dead, ten dead/No more than ten dead” delivered over a squalling, sliding, suitably dischordant musical framework.

Tweedy is more conciliatory on the jagged rock of the title track, musically and melodically redolent of New York icons Television, where he offers “Led by light/You can’t divide/When your red lines/Get crossed with mine.”

The heart of the record, though, is a broken one, Tweedy’s observation on the electronic music box warble of “Sunlight Ends” that “You’re not the kind of mountain stream/Anyone can cross/You’re the kind of flashing sign/That only gets you lost,” is contrasted on the gorgeous, recent live favorite “Evicted” as Tweedy accepts his fate in love: “I’m evicted from your heart/I deserve it.”

Nels Cline’s textured, wildly inventive guitar work washes through “Infinite Surprise,” which recalls the atmosphere of “At Least That’s What You Said” from 2004’s A Ghost Is Born, while it’s Glenn Kotche’s strong but subtle drumming that holds together minor key wonder “Levee” as Tweedy’s hushed melody intones, “I love to take my meds/Like my doctor said/But I worry/If I shouldn’t instead.”

It’s this kind of doubt, of misapprehension and second-guessing, that makes the band’s lyrics oh so relatable, and on “Soldier Child” Tweedy encapsulates contradictory notions of love and fear perfectly: “So good to see you/To see you again/I’d almost forgotten/What it’s like to feel the pain.”

Closer “Meant to Be” spins out from a heavenly wash of guitar and keys into a sweet shuffle defined by John Stirrat’s Peter Hook-inspired bassline and offers a golden example of Tweedy’s whispered, resigned, lovelorn poetry with “Hold my heart closer to yours/Vacation is starting/You’re not coming home to me.” Tweedy’s voice, having graduated to a husky strain in recent years, sounds like wisdom, like wit, like love both won and lost.

Cousin is a complex and clever album; on its surface a collection of enveloping melodies and gently moving sounds, but on close inspection and repeated listens, revealing itself to be a purposely contradictory, quietly inventive creature. It’s an album with soul, several truly outstanding songs, and a certain profundity which reassures us that Wilco are riding yet another peak of glorious creativity, standing as one of the few remaining truly great bands of their generation. (www.wilcoworld.net)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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