Wilco: Star Wars (dBpm) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Star Wars


Jul 23, 2015 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

How we all love a surprise. Especially when the surprise arrives as the happy continuation of Wilco‘s remarkable run of albums which now stretches back over 20 years (and even further if we consider Jeff Tweedy’s earlier Uncle Tupelo output). But where most bands find solace in re-treading old ground and staying on the safer side of the fence, the most exciting and invigorating aspect of Star Wars (beyond its surprise free release) is that it continues to push the sonic envelope with an unruly refusal to sit comfortably in one place for too long: the end result being a disparate and richly textured brew of sound that is arguably the band’s best work in a decade.

It only takes 33 minutes to navigate through Star Wars and in that time Wilco span the gamut from the opening Marc Ribot/Trout Mask Replica lashes of sound (“EKG”) to closing with sepulchral John Lennon sombreness (“Magnetized”). In between, they demonstrate a laudable will to explore the murkier edges of their sonic palate. “Random Name Generator” stomps with a delectable T. Rex fuzzbox glee, “Pickled Ginger” bristles with impatient electricity, and “King of You” is a bottleneck blues stomp filtered through a dial-up modem. Though such experimental flourishes colored the band’s previous album The Whole Love, this time stronger songs are present to back up the ambition. Just like the Iron Throne from George R. R. Martin’s iconic A Song of Ice and Fire, the record never permits the listener to sit back comfortably: changing direction with nearly every track and seemingly sweet offerings like “Where do I Begin” metamorphosing midway with unexpected guitar effects and obtuse sounds emerging from stage left. And it is like praising Lionel Messi for being “decent” with a football but, yet again, Nels Cline’s guitar playing continually reminds you that he is one of the finest and most subtle musicians on the planet right now; especially on the magnificent and multi-textured “You Satellite” when multiple bubbles of guitar burst subtly up around you until they build into a glorious, intoxicating swirl of texture and sound.

Despite the musical color, there is an underpinning lyrical theme of doubt and being unable to deliver on expectations throughout the recorda possible sign that Tweedy is musing on the passage of time, even if musically he remains as alive as ever. “I don’t know,” he mutters during “Taste the Ceiling,” “Won’t you come and show me?” Perhaps he is seeking reassurance, a center to stabilize himself at an age where introspection can overwhelm even the strongest person. But behind his voice, the music takes us beyond introspection and into triumph, and through the myriad fresh ideas found within Star Wars the evidence is clear that not only are he and the band standing tall, they continue to stride out as leading lights in a field where many of their contemporaries are sitting on their laurels. Star Wars is the glorious sound of an act still wired to create, programmed to experiment, and stacked with emotion to spare. Long may we treasure them, their doubts, and their beautifully uncompromising hearts, heads, and hands. (www.wilcoworld.net)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10


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