Wilco are probably best known for their 2 albums ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’ and ‘A Ghost Is Born’. YHF, as many people will know, is my all time favourite album. It’s simply stunning and A Ghost Is Born is not too far behind in my eyes. The boundaries that these albums broke with their experimantal noise elements garnered comparisons to Radiohead and other bands who push the boundaries of ‘conventional’ music. So when Sky Blue Sky dropped a couple of years ago, many of those people who fell in love with Wilco because of the 2 previous albums could not forgive or perhaps understand what had happened. Here was an album which did not immerse itself in untraditional elements but instead focused on delivering songs of real beauty. Gone was the experimental creativity of songs such as ‘I Am Trying To Break Your Heart’ and ‘Poor Places’ and in in their place came the simple majesty of tunes such as ‘You Are My Face’ and ‘Impossible Germany’. I think there was an air of disappointment amongst many that Wilco had not ventured further into the obscure. That they had somehow failed by not pushing the boundaries once again. For me, Sky Blue Sky was simply magnificent because by not doing what everyone expected them to do they once again pushed the boundaries as a band and stopped themselves going stale. And lets not forget, this is a band whose albums from AM right through to Sky Blue Sky could hardly be called ‘similar’. Just like Blur, Wilco are a band who, without doubt, re-shape and change with each album and that in itself is something which makes them stand out from the rest.
Wilco (the album) was released yesterday on Nonesuch records. As always my anticipation for a Wilco album was exceptionally high and I have to say that I have not been disappointed. No doubt the Wilco bashers who raised their ugly heads upon the release of Sky Blue Sky will be out in force again claiming that they are no longer the exciting prospect that they were back in 2001. I’d argue to the contrary, that this album is packed with brilliant, brilliant songs and musicianship as good as anything that has gone before, if not as diverse. I must admit that the first 2 tracks did not grab me by the balls to begin with, but from the moment ‘One Wing’ kicks in the album soars (pardon the pun) and never looks back. ‘Bull Black Nova’ is nothing short of brilliant and ‘Country Disappeared’ and ‘Everlasting Everything’ are up there too as potential Wilco classics. There is a rich diversity of songs on offer and, as a vocalist, Jeff Tweedy as never sounded as confident. This is a band that finally appears comfortable in its own skin and has found the line up that will continue to create brilliant music for years to come – Nels Cline and Glen Kotche must be 2 of the most exciting musicians alive today. Surely there’s nothing wrong with not always pushing boundaries when you consistently write songs that make your contemporaries look average. There is no doubt in my mind that Wilco do exactly that.
TSP Grade = A-