Monday, October 17, 2011
THE WHOLE LOVE
Wearing the crown of "Critics' Darlings" since their debut, Wilco have earned this title by producing some of the most thoughtful and experimental records of the past fifteen years. Eight albums in, Jeff Tweedy and the group are still capable of marrying ethereal sounds to conventional song structures. Pushing forward with a trunk-load of melodies here, only fleetingly are they stretched, re-shaped, interspersed with telepathic white noise and made to run naked through a gauntlet of guitars. It's still a damn good listen.
Found a fix for the fits/Come listen to this
For the uninitiated, Wilco is not part of some secret, hipster club that you have to dress up or shave your head to join. They do take some wild chances with their art, which is tightly helmed by one Jeff Tweedy. As chief cook and bottle washer in the band, his vision is fleshed out by an incredible group of musicians.
Special mention this time around goes to bassist John Stirratt. Charter member, multi-instrumentalist, harmony vocal champ; shit, the guy has never played anything other than inventive lines to underpin the songs. He is in particularly great form here, executing a slew of delicate, fine bass figures that are deservedly brought to the fore in the mix. "Art of Almost" gives him plenty of room to work, though it starts out with glacial noises that compete with an insistent drum pattern. Harking back to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot/A Ghost is Born era experiments, the music ebbs and flows, climaxing in a full on wig-out to the finish line.
More kudos to the bassmanship displayed in "I Might", married to some wicked wordplay. Tweedy seems to be reeling in thoughts from a special stream of consciousness. What comes on with a near Motown feel boasts the feel good line of the disc:
You won't set the kids on fire/but I might
There are even a couple of Beatle-action-replays thrown in for giggles. "Sunloathe" has Harrisonoid slide, high fret territory McCartney bass noodles, Lennon's trusty, heavy-on-the-reverb piano plonking, a Ringo fill or two and some sweeping 'ahhhhhhh's' to ice the cake. It's a fine tune as well. "Capitol City" is pure Hoagy Carmichael on LSD, dragged through the filter of a White Album session, adorned with a slew of sound effects and presented here for your listening pleasure. Even more bizarre, the title track bears a striking resemblance to "Magneto and Titanium Man".
Venus and Mars-era Wings. I'm not joking.
For all that, it still works.
What starts out with the promise of some good old fashioned freak-outs quickly detours toward laid-back fare. Again, with material is as strong as the string-framed "Black Moon", it really doesn't matter. As close to perfection as it gets.
I can only register one complaint. The closer, "One Sunday Morning" is sung in an annoying, half whispered fashion that comes across as if Tweedy had returned from a dental appointment, with the lingering effect of Novocaine hindering his ability to enunciate properly. Just fucking sing! It also hangs on a fairly pretty hook, though it is not worthy of twelve-minutes. He should have just incorporated this idea into "Rising Red Lung" as both are pretty close cousins, sonically. Either way, it is at times like this that I wish Jeff would bring in a collaborator to truly challenge his authority in the studio. Down the line, the magic eight ball foresees a few issues with Mr. T not being able to see the forest for the trees when it comes to what makes it past quality control.
Make no mistake, these guys are committed to their craft and are functioning on a level that is head and shoulders above many of their contemporaries. Ultimately, this disc blows over you as would a gentle breeze on a muggy summer afternoon. Enough to refresh, though you are left wanting a bit more.
That's why you have no choice but to listen again.
Despite my one objection, The Whole Love offers impeccably rendered tunes that lesser bands would die to have on their resume. Scaling back on surprises, the creative retrenching effort that began with Sky Blue Sky seems complete. Curious to see where they'll go next.