Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Wilco Will Love You More Than I Love Wilco (the Album)

Eric and I attended the same wedding over Labor Day weekend (it didn't involve either one of us; you're welcome, Ladies!), and Wilco (the Album) came up at our table. Suffice it to say, no one involved in the discussion will be ranking it on the top tier of Wilco (the Trophy Case).

My assessment: After 2 months with this album, I rank it as their second-worst. This is a relative statement obviously. Someone at the wedding asked me what I thought was Wilco's worst album and I said "A.M." And she replied, "But I love A.M." And I was like: "Yes, so do I! All these rankings are completely relative."

But that said, my tiers are as follows...
(no sub-ranking within tiers)

Tier One: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, A Ghost Is Born, Sky Blue Sky
Tier Two: Being There, Summerteeth
Tier Three: Wilco (the Album), A.M.

But since this is mostly a post about Wilco (the Album), here are my prevailing thoughts after 2 months:

1. I feel little compulsion to drop everything and put this record on. This is particularly striking when I compare it to Sky Blue Sky which I could not stop listening to for the first 2 weeks-- and almost to that level for several months.

2. There aren't any songs on here that I'd skip, although some are weaker than others. But there's nothing bad on here. That said, I do have a least favorite song on this album, and that is "You and I."

3. Several of the songs are incomplete. "Bull Black Nova" is pretty darn good, but I really feel like there was more to be done with that song. Certainly there was more you could do with a 6-piece all-star band! "Everlasting Everything" is also not finished and I don't like the constant tubular bell on every chorus. I think they'll regret that choice in the long run. (BTW, that's not the first time they've taken an idea that was good in moderation and pushed it way too far. See the "oooh yeah" backing vox on Heavy Metal Drummer for Example A.)

4. Getting back to the 6-piece all-star band thing... what a waste of a 6-piece all-star band. I'm not advocating that everything needs to be a prog-style epic chops-fest, but seriously: Why is Nels Cline on this album? Why is Mikael Jorgensen on this album? Hyperbole, to be sure, but at the core of this remark, I am serious. I'm not advocating that Nels go off into free jazz shred-land, but they could do a lot more with him within the Wilco aesthetic. For instance, listen to how great his guitar sounds on "Deeper Down." But there's so little of that on the album, and I think a lot of that arises because you're dealing with a lot of unfinished songs.

In conclusion, I return to the caveat that all my Wilco criticisms are relative. I still listen to this album with some regularity, and I do genuinely like it. I expect it'll make my year-end Top 10. But it's a huge downgrade from Sky Blue Sky (or any of the past 3 albums), and it seems like it was rushed out before it was fully realized. It plays more like a Jeff Tweedy solo album to me, which is fine. But I do get frustrated because the guy is leading a totally kick-ass rock sextet that puts on the finest live show today's money can buy. I wish more of that had made it onto (the album).


Eric said...

Switch A Ghost is Born and Summerteeth in those tiers and I largely Support This Message.

Quinapalus said...

As with Eric, my temptation is also to quibble with the tiers, although overall I agree with you that (the Album) while good, is maybe my least favorite Wilco album. I think i like Being There more than most people. I'd put it in tier one.