Review of Wilco's new album, The Whole Love

BY DI STAFF | SEPTEMBER 29, 2011 7:20 AM

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Wilco's new album, The Whole Love, showcases a band that sounded better when the members were suffering from depression and prescription-drug addiction.

The Whole Love is the first album released by the band's label, dBpm, and it is the group's most experimental album in almost 10 years.

But compared with the albums the band made 10 years ago, it falls short.

The album features a quite studio-driven sound that one hears in the first song. The opening track, "The Art of Almost," is the gem of the album. The song begins calmly with a funky bouncing bass line and nearly comes to a halt halfway through. The band reaccelerates and charges into an electronic, raging full band jam that is led by the screeching guitar of Nels Cline.

Cline's effort should be acknowledged. He shines on this album, and his work on the lap steel guitar is the best aspect of many of the tracks.

Another highlight is the eighth track, "Capital City." The sound takes listeners back to the days of the band's '99 album, Summerteeth. Lyrically, vocalist Jeff Tweedy shows what it's like to live in a city apart from your love. He sings:

"Secretaries at the hot-dog vendors/cabs honking at the bicycle messengers/rolling by/I can't call with a subway token/anyway, the phones are all broken/I wish you were here, better yet I wish I was there with you."

These lyrics hit listeners along with a barrage of other sounds coming from space-age keyboards, Cline on the lap steel guitar, organ pipes, piano, and at the end, church bells to top it off.

The final song on the album is as haunting as it is beautiful. The song is called "One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley's Boyfriend)" [note: Jane Smiley earned an M.F.A. and a Ph.D. at the University of Iowa]. The song is about a conversation Tweedy had with Smiley's boyfriend that dealt with an overly religious father who condemns his son for the way he that he lives and the son's relief when the father dies.

Tweedy sings:

"I said it's your God I don't believe in/No, your Bible can't be true/Knocked down by the long lie/He cried I fear what what's for you."

"One Sunday Morning" is a nearly flawless song. It is driven by a perfect pairing of acoustic guitar and piano whose notes are chased around by a xylophone. The only gripe I have about "One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley's Boyfriend)" is that at a little over 12 minutes long, the song's sound isn't diverse enough to keep my interest. Initially the piano and guitar riffs are some of the best I've heard from Wilco, but after six minutes, I found my ears yearning for the musicians to mix it up.

The rest of the album is mediocre. The lyrics are solid throughout, but the instrumentation will bore most listeners. There are Beatles-esque pop songs such as "I Might" and (too many) mellow acoustic jams that are only useful if you're trying to fall asleep.

— by Jordan

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