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CD REVIEW: "The Whole Love" by Wilco

dBpm Records
"The Whole Love" by Wilco
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CD REVIEW:  Wilco – The
Whole Love
 (dBpm Records)  2011

If “Art of Almost,” the opening track to Wilco’s newest
album The Whole Love is any
indication of what lies ahead on the Chicago band’s latest offering, then I am
going to put this one up and grab my old copy of A.M. and bliss out on some old-timey alt-country. I know, I know. I
threaten to do that with every Wilco release. Perhaps I’ll get over it someday.

That said, I want to like Wilco records. I certainly like
the Son Volt stuff. Reliable Americana, that. But Wilco is a whole ‘nother
animal. Being experimental is cool but you gotta be able to pull it off. I know
the edgy A Ghost is Born is a
favorite among Wilco fans, but give me the subtle psychedelia of Summerteeth any day. I like melody,
harmony and a backbeat to write home about.

And so not quite unexpectedly, The Whole Love is sort of all over the place, and I say that, well,
lovingly. It actually grows on you after repeated listens. In fact, I’m finding
that the longer I listen to it, the better it gets. Autumn records tend to be
like that.

So, with scattershot beats over symphonic synth sounds and
bleeps and blips, singer Jeff Tweedy – a long way from his days in the twangy
band Uncle Tupelo – the overly-long song really doesn’t do much for me, despite
Tweedy’s attempts at trying to sound relevant and artistic.

Sometimes Tweedy and the Wilco boys seem to be
overcompensating for something with each album. I remember in the summer of ’09
picking up Wilco (the album) and
thinking, ‘Okay, this is going to be Wilco at its best. The one that will put
me firmly back in their camp.” And while there were some highlights on that
release, “You Never Know” being a good example, I gave it a grade of C+ at the
time.

With a retro organ straight outta garagerockville ’66, “I
Might” has a catchy groove and seems to get better as it bounces along. And
speaking of catchy and bouncy, “Born Alone,” where Tweedy sunnily sings “I have heard the war and the worry of the
gospel / Ferried fast across the void
.” Okay, maybe not accessible, but
interesting. And bassist John Stirratt seems to like the straightforward bass
lines he was given. And Glenn Kotche, over on drums? He is heavy on the
cymbals, my friend.

There is a dreamy, Lennon-esque quality to “Sunloathe.” And
there is a middle-aged meatiness to “Dawned On Me.” Nels Cline gets to some
quality time on guitar and Tweedy even whistles a bit. This one has “radio-friendly
single” written all over it.

The same could probably be said of “Standing,” an upbeat
mope-rocker that has a bit of mid-70’s-styled glam energy that keeps things
interesting. There’s a sprightly feel to “Whole Love.” With it’s Beatles-styled
psychedelic vibe, it stays pretty

The quiet intimacy of “Rising Red Lung,” with it’s fingerpicked
guitar strings, tender washes of synth and Tweedy’s hushed vocals make this one
a surprising standout.

But Tweedy and the boys wait until the very end to give us
the best song on The Whole Love. It’s
a12-minute song called “One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend).”
It’s a big song in that it tackles the subject of a loving God and a man (that
would be Jane Smiley’s boyfriend, of course) coming to terms with the death of
his overbearing, religious father who “said what I had become / No one should
be.” The boyfriend had told Tweedy that now that his father was dead and gone,
he felt the burden his father had put on him had finally lifted.

Sings Tweedy in a hushed tone over acoustic guitars, piano
and a glockenspiel:“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 waits for you
.”

Strong stuff and I commend Tweedy for writing this important
song, among the best in Wilco’s catalogue.

The Whole Love is
not the sort of record you’d throw on at a party. It’s more for folks who like
listening to BIG albums on BIG headphones.

Copyright 2011 West
Marie Media

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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