As enjoyable as The Whole Love is—and it’s an appreciable improvement over the wan Wilco—it still has some of its predecessor’s slight, low-stakes feel. The Whole Love is an album of reliable, occasionally exceptional, but mostly just solid pleasures from a very good band that doesn’t seem interested in doing the heavy lifting it takes to be great. Wilco’s early records seemed like the product of painful deliberation and unmitigated tension, a real life-or-death proposition; The Whole Love breezes by like a sunny Saturday afternoon among best friends. Now that Wilco has finally found its comfort zone, it might be time to venture elsewhere for a change.
I just have two comments:
1. Wilco "doesn't seem interested in doing the heavy lifting it takes to be great"? What does that mean? If they'd just worked a little harder and shown some dedication they could have written another Yankee Hotel Foxtrot? It's like saying: "what happened to the Martin Scorsese of Goodfellas? If only he'd been willing to do some more heavy lifting, The Aviator could have been just as good, but he lost his nerve."
2. Does he think Wilco needs more "unmitigated tension" to get back to its old self? It reminds me of an interview I once heard with Joni Mitchell from the mid 1970s, in which the interviewer said that lots of her fans thought she'd lost the sense of "vulnerability" that she'd had in her earlier work. She said something to the effect of "maybe I don't want to be so damn vulnerable anymore." Hard to argue with that.