Wilco: The Whole Love
An experience that’s extremely rare for me lately–expectations fulfilled. You know, that moment when you eagerly await a new release by a band you love or formerly loved, and it turns out to be every bit as mind-blowing as you’d hoped for. To quote a popular blog that shall remain nameless, “To have been in the right place in the right frame of mind at the right time, (perhaps) a Beatles fan in 1967 or a Pink Floyd fan in 1973 or a Pixies fan in 1989. It’s the inside-the-park home run of rock.” This happened to me just a few days ago.
“Art Of Almost”, the opening salvo for Wilco’s new album The Whole Love, is Jeff Tweedy telling all of his fickle fans, like myself, who came very close to writing his band off as “dad-rock”, to F**K OFF! It’s a slow burner of a track, starting off with electronic blips and blurbs that turn into a funky, fuzzy breakdown. The last two minutes are two of the most exciting minutes of any track I’ve heard in probably the last 5 years, or more, and reminded me the first time I heard “Fools Gold” by the Stone Roses back in 1989 (or was it 1990?). It’s breathtaking. Really. I found myself smiling and thinking to myself, “good for you, Jeff, good for you”.
Track 2, “I Might”, wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the celebrated Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. As a matter of fact, it sounded at first a little too close to “Kamera” from that album, specifically it’s loose acoustic strumming sound that kicks it off. It’s pleasant, and with a sample from The Stooges “TV Eye” you know it ain’t bad; after a few spins, though, it released it’s charms and originality. On the surface, like so many Wilco songs, it sounds almost jaunty until you hear the lyrics about “pissing blood”.
“Sunloathe” is a little psychedelic gem and reminds me of Imagine era John Lennon and one of my favorites from this album. Wilco are experimenting again, and the sonic variety on this song is a welcome departure from the Wilco-by-the-book Sky Blue Sky and Wilco (The Album).
Some moody and more traditional folky-type songs lead up to the “When I’m 64” sounding “Capital City”, which acts as a palate cleanser for the second course. “Capital City” is a direct sequel, sound and composition wise, to Summerteeth’s “Pieholden Suite”, and is an excellent reminder of Tweedy’s Brian Wilson/Paul McCartney fetish.
“Standing O” steals the riff from Elton John’s “Saturday’s Alright For Fighting” to great effect, then settles into a glam stomp complete with hand-claps and fuzz bass. It’s a great driving song, and of course hand-claps makes every song sound better!
“Rising Red Lung” is a dirge with heart, the title track shows Tweedy hitting his mark as a great pop songwriter and is one of the highlights in an album full of highlights.
The closing song on the album, “One Sunday Morning (A Song For Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)” is, instrumentally speaking, the most traditional. At just a hair over 12 minutes it reveals itself as anything but. Tweedy sings, “”This is how I’ll tell it / Oh, but it’s long,” and he’s right, but it’s worth it. I’ve heard a lot of comparisons but the best is Dylan’s “Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands”, the song which ends Blonde On Blonde.
The elements all come together on this album. The retro and modern keyboard sounds, the amazing guitar playing, the fuzz bass and, most of all, Jeff Tweedy’s songwriting are all stellar on The Whole Love. If it sounds like I’m gushing, it’s only because I am. I had low expectations, and maybe that’s a reason I’m so enthralled here. But I don’t think so. This is just a really, really great album that deserves a spot in your record collection. Even if you don’t get Wilco I still think you’ll dig this record.
I’m kicking myself for not purchasing the deluxe edition, which has an extra EP that contains their cover of Nick Lowe’s “I Love My Label” and some other instrumentals from these sessions, but I didn’t want to get burned again.
Wilco loves you, baby! And this gift of an album proves it.