Ever since Wilco parted ways with Jay Bennett (RIP), it became the Jeff Tweedy show. Collaboration gave way to Tweedy’s vision of Wilco. For those of us interested in the more experimental side of Wilco, Tweedy’s vision fortunately (A Ghost Is Born) and unfortunately (Sky Blue Sky) reflected his outlook on the world. Ghost was jumbled, sadly beautiful and taut, reflecting his inner turmoil, and Sky seemed like a latter day Beach Boys album without the input of Brian Wilson – not bad but languid, self-satisfied and dull. I’m not wishing any artist troubles but have long thought that some of the best art is often born of turmoil, as a reflection of life. With the obligatory introduction out of the way, we’ve arrived at Wilco (The Album).
I was worried this was going to be the Stephen Colbert album. Smug, silly, smarmy. It’s not, but it’s not Yankee Hotel Foxtrot either. Somehow, it lies right between Sky Blue Sky and A Ghost is Born. There is just enough edge in songs like “Bull Black Nova” to keep you interested only to be derailed by the mom-rock (?) of the Tweedy/Feist duet, “You and I” immediately after. Who sequenced this thing, Elmo? As a matter of fact, the first four songs threaten to make the album Wilco’s best only to somehow lose it’s way. Maybe Tweedy’s maps were overthrown.
I find the album a frustrating experience. Maybe there’s more there for me to dig into. I listened to it several times on the drive through Spain in a rental car on winding roads, not on my headphones, so maybe I missed a level. I just found myself happy to be at the end so I could pop in Gomez’s album and hear something truly great. Who knows, that one was a grower was well. Maybe I should just take comfort in the fact that Colbert is nowhere to be found and that Wilco loves you, baby.