Contributors Clay Cunningham and Andrew Majors are both avid Wilco fans, and both wanted to review the band’s latest, “Wilco (The Album),” and were both too petty to just let the other one have it. So, what we’ve done is combined them into the first ever “Everyview Doubleshot,” a format we basically stole from our friends at we-rate-stuff.
So while it may be pointless to essentially run the same review from two different vantage points, both contributors clearly feel very strongly about this new work and have several varied reasons why you should check it out. And if reading both reviews simultaneously seems to be too daunting a task, feel free to take a break and come back at a later time. Our stats look better that way.
By Clay Cunningham:
For the last few years, Wilco has been a band I very much enjoyed which I always had operating just outside my list of “elite” acts. If I divided my musical tastes into categories, they would have been designated in the sub division of “very good.”
Then a thought occurred to me when listening to their instantly likable new work “Wilco (The Album),” and that thought was every Wilco album is instantly great. Whether they are recording country laced folk music, experimental art rock or unreleased Woody Guthrie songs, each and every effort is like a wonderful little hug to your ear drums within the very first listen. Most bands are lucky if they can make one album that fills you with such instantaneous delight. To do it every time out is truly something special.
My line above about a hug to the ears is fitting, as the album opens with “Wilco (The Song),” in which frontman Jeff Tweedy makes a bold move by breaking the fourth wall and addressing the listener directly, to tell them that whatever problems they may be having, his band will be there to ease their troubles. “Put on your headphones before you explode,” Tweedy sings, offering the listening party “a sonic shoulder to cry on” and leaving us assured that, no matter what, “Wilco will love you, baby.”
If your are like me, sans the Wilco fandom, you will think this idea is silly, and I will admit that on paper the whole idea of the song seems ridiculous. But trust me, it works. I don’t think the song is supposed to be taken overly seriously as it almost has a satirical feel to it. But whether it is supposed to be taken seriously or not, it kicks things off nicely.
From there it only gets better, as the band nicely mixes up songs, both fast and slow. The first “single”, “You Never Know” (they performed it on Conan, so I guess it can be considered a single), is a toe-tapping ditty about someone who’s become so beaten down by hearing about threats of an imminent apocalypse that he can no longer take the claims seriously. Another rousing number is the grooveacious “Black Bull Nova,” which sounds like an improvisation session that went perfectly right. Each band member is seemingly throwing in instrumentation from every angle in hopes it will stick and it does. This has the feel of a song that could be a great live jam for years to come.
Things stay solid when the tempo slows down. “You and I” is a gorgeous duet with popular singer-songwriter Feist, whose vocal style compliments Tweedy’s perfectly, while “Solitare” is Wilco at their “alt-country” finest. It begins with an acoustic riff that sounds like it’s channeling Nick Drake’s Cello Song and gently sucks you in with its fantastic melody and soothing slide guitar.
The only thing the album doesn’t do is end well. Closer “Everlasting Everything” seems to be attempting to end the album on an epic sort of note, but it doesn’t quite get there. In time I hope to warm up to this track, but as of right now it clearly stands out as the albums weakest song.
As I was listening to their latest great work, the reason I find Wilco to be such an appealing band finally struck me. Yes it’s because they make great music, but it’s also because I can’t think of a modern band who makes music with more sincerity. With every new album comes something new, yet the band has never come across as phony in any way. While there is enough credit to go around, much of it goes to ring leader Tweedy. He has always been able to provide listeners with a very specific vision (so specific, it could explain why he and bassist John Stirratt are the only remaining original members and why recently deceased former member Jay Bennet had such nasty things to say about him in the documentary “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”) that always ends in a pleasing listening experience.
So after years of enjoying their work, I can say this album has finally put Wilco over-the-top and into my category of “elite” acts. While this may be the most pointless promotion in world history, they’ve clearly earned it.
Final Score: 9.3/10 (You love it and it loves you back)
By Andrew Majors:
I always seem to jump off a band’s wagon (a bandwagon?) after they get really popular and start producing shittier and shittier albums. They get lazy and lose the zest and vigor that made them popular to begin with. They lose their hunger to please the fans and quit striving to create genuinely interesting music. One of these bands is not Wilco.
Their latest album, simply titled “Wilco: The Album,” starts off, continues to be, and ends amazing. The first track, “Wilco: The Song,” is a freaking great song. It’s cheery and fun and sort of tongue-in-cheek approach to themselves, and I’ve loved this song since they played it on The Colbert Report. As the album progresses, it opens up. It never looks back. It evolves. “Deeper Down” and “One Wing” keep the album rolling, and each song on this album genuinely sounds like a Wilco song. Which is a compliment. I like Wilco because they are Wilco. Each song here sounds like them, but is different enough to be a step forward. Too often bands think that they have to start doing concept albums on grand and important topics, and the music is lost. Not Wilco. They do what they do best on this album. They play Wilco songs, and they kick ass doing it.
Jeff Tweedy is so lyrically interesting, I find myself caring about where his songs are going. To me, and some may consider this blasphemous, but I consider him my generation’s Bob Dylan. He has a way of telling a story within a song that makes it seem so genuine and in the moment that I want to know, I want to listen, I want to hear. He’s less folksy than Dylan, but for some reason, Tweedy’s voice and his words really remind me of him. The song “You and I” really slows things down, and I swear I can hear Dylan himself in some of the words. And even if you disagree, this claim is a hell of a lot less audacious than when Pepsi said the modern day Dylan was Will-I-Am.
“You Never Know” is a fantastic song, with a lot of gusto, and is an anthem for the times. The chorus of “I don’t care anymore” is fantastic, and really flows well with the rest of the song.
The album really flows well, blending rocking Wilco with a slower, more introspective Wilco. And this is the most successful thing about this album, and the band as a whole. They blend genres perfectly, and with the lyrical prowess of Tweedy to lead us, we end up heading toward the light more often than the darkness. The album moves from upbeat song to ballad seamlessly, and it’s effective the way Wilco is able to change pace so effortlessly. While some bands albums feel like they completely hit a wall at some point, when all good ideas are spent, this is a band that is never out of ideas. They always have something fresh to say, and a fresh way to say it. The album ends with “Everlasting Everything,” and it’s a fitting farewell to this fantastic album. It winds you down, but leaves you optimistic about the future. About everything, actually. It’s incredibly effective, and the crescendos throughout the song are fantastically timed.
I mentioned it in my review of their live show in Bloomington, Indiana, and after listening to this effort I can safely say that I absolutely trust Wilco for one reason. Above all else, they’re true musicians. They’re in it for the music, and they’re in it for their fans. They’re always going to be themselves, and that’s what a goddamn great band should be. This album is a MUST own for Wilco fans, and for people who are interested in getting into a great band that’s going to be around for awhile, look no further. Wilco is your band.
Score: 9/10 (GREAT)
1. Wilco (the song)
2. Deeper Down
3. One Wing
4. Bull Black Nova
5. You and I
6. You Never Know
7. Country Disappeared
9. I’ll Fight
10. Sonny Feeling
11. Everlasting Everything