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Reviews

Wilco
Wilco (The Album) Jeremy Allen , July 17th, 2009 07:34

"Do you dabble in depression? Is someone twisting a knife down your back? Are you being attacked?"

Jeff Tweedy might be off the prescription drugs, but that's not halted his dark, oblique lyrics laced with paranoia. The foreboding sentiments of the lyric above come from the song 'Wilco', on the band's seventh long player Wilco, the one they say deserves the eponymous moniker. It speaks of a self belief that this is the true reflection of everything that they've ever wanted to achieve. Such hubris could have spelled catastrophe, but listening to this record, they've clearly wrestled their own personal beast to the ground, and whatever it is they do, they're at some kind of musical apogee.

Musically the band are more dynamic than they've ever been: the confident swagger and unerring cool of the opener isn't an aberration. What's astonishing about this record is the delicate audio balancing act between Tweedy's heightened pop sensibilities and their decoration in relentless, scuzzy feedback. Even 'One Wing', which for a moment threatens to be a plodding Eagles pastiche, is salvaged by some savage spasmodic fretwork that's actually closer to the likes of Sonic Youth or the Velvet Underground.

Thankfully, Wilco isn't just hipster guitar-slinging and unimpeachably cool reference points. It is, however, a record only an American band could make – take 'Bull Black Nova', a song about a car. It's a heritage some British bands might envy, taking from the lineage of auto-fetishism that is an ocean apart from the embarrassing toy town tomfoolery of Madness' 'Driving in my Car'. JG Ballard can start turning in his grave now if he wants to.

There are gentler, soppier moments that threaten to mess up the hair, like the unashamedly romantic 'You and I', to which Feist brings poignancy and purity and a little pathos with her delectable voice. The arrangements suggest this wasn't written as a duet, and the two vocalists falling clumsily over each other makes it all the more sweet; one of those rare and strange moments of musical alchemy.

Such goofiness is momentary, though. The accomplished production on an audacious track like 'Deeper Down' (accommodating harpsichords and what sounds like a saw), could have ended up sounding like some Yellow sub-Submarine pillock's stir fry – but with Wilco there is no pillocking. Tweedy's songwriting is heavyweight, effortless and classic, while Jim Scott's production nudges Wilco further up the scale on what might be regarded one day as one of those rare eponymous masterpieces.

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