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Wilco the album, the song and the review

June 29, 2009

Self-titled albums can be excellent: The Beatles, Weezer(s). Self-titled songs don’t tend to work quite so well. Put your band’s name in a song and you’ll end up with shit like Big Country or, to a less-shitty extent, Bad Company.

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Now Wilco, coming off two unremarkable studio albums and a live recording I honestly didn’t bother with, wants to play the name game. As my opening examples imply, putting “Wilco (The Song)” on Wilco (The Album) takes a lot of chutzpah.

Instead of building a monument to themselves, though, Wilco pays a tribute of sorts to their influences: from the Television shoutout “Bull Black Nova” to the Zombies-like chorus on “I’ll Fight.” The “Werewolves of London” bounce of “Wilco (The Song)” puts the album on an unexpected track: It doesn’t suck!

The 11-song set rolls by with moments of Yankee Foxtrot Hotel brilliance (“You and I”) and some of the best Wilco tunes since the band’s 1995 debut. Oft-tagged as alternative country, Jeff Tweedy and co. are definitely at their best when the slide’s kicking and the piano’s popping (“Sonny Feeling”).

After the lullaby lull of A Ghost Is Born and Sky Blue Sky, Wilco is a great comeback. I wasn’t expecting it to be this good, but I’m glad that it is.

While you’re listening to the full-album stream, ponder the triumphs and tragedies surrounding self-titled albums and song. What are the best and worst that come to mind?

— Shane M. Liebler

4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 8, 2009 6:05 pm

    Wilco is definitely a band you have to have a taste for. The bands sound caught me off guard and I’m still a little undecided lol.

  2. September 8, 2009 9:11 pm

    Jose — Might I recommend Yankee Foxtrot Hotel from 2002. It is one of the band’s finest hours and arguably one of the best put together albums of the decade.

  3. November 18, 2009 2:05 pm

    At first listen I was not wowed by Wilco’s new diggs, nor was I counting on fireworks from this record. Though I came to an almost epiphany after seeing them live on this tour. Wilco is an experience and a sound not a phenomenon from record to record. Jeff’s almost graduation, as I want to call it, from chain smoking alt-country/indie icon, to more of a rock/indie legend though the progression of Wilco’s projects, collaborations and just plain old experience has their music and especially live performance/recordings as major events on the music history timeline. Wilco the album is now a great record for me based on the killer performance that Wilco delivered from being the near epitome of a perfect working harmony of musicians. Funny story while thinking about shows that then directly influence ones appreciation for a record. Just saw Monsters of Folk at the United Palace Theater in NYC. I went into the show with a good feeling of seeing some very listenable alt-folk from some of not only my favorite, but also very reputable artists. The show blew the roof off the venue and the record has a whole new meaning. On the flip Wilco are delivering this constantly and are revered as kings as a result.

    • November 19, 2009 9:19 pm

      I have not made the effort to see them live as I’ve always been a casual fan. It seems I really like all of their key albums, though: Being There, Yankee Foxtrot Hotel (of course) and this new one right here.
      I was totally suprised by the quality and only now as I look back on the decade in music am I realizing what an incredible stake they have in the last 10 years. The Smile-esque back story of Foxtrot, its ambitious aura and just plain good music make it such a gem.
      I felt like the ‘kings’ got a little full of themselves on the next two, but this one reminds me of what a great band they really are.
      Thanks for the comment!

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