Wilco never disappoints

by Conner Cox

MCT Campus
MCT Campus

Some critics have called Wilco the “American Radiohead,” not because of any musical similarities, but because both bands have a constantly evolving sound. Having transformed from its mid-’90s alternative country sound to jazz-inspired folk, Wilco has proven to be one of the most interesting bands around.

Similar to Radiohead, Wilco’s debut work was rather misleading compared to the band’s discography as a whole, which is partially because of the frequent turnover of band members. Since the beginning of its career, Wilco has experienced five major changes in the member lineup. “Summerteeth” is “The Bends” of Wilco’s discography while “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” parallels Radiohead’s “OK Computer.” Both the latter albums stand among the greatest of the last 15 years.

However, the current lineup is the longest lasting outfit so far, which explains the similarities in “The Whole Love” to the last two records.

The Radiohead comparisons are nearly justified with the opener “Art of Almost.” The seven-minute track starts off sounding like a windstorm blowing into the microphone. Nels Cline’s experimental guitar riffs and Mikael Jorgensen’s keyboards fade in to orchestrate the structure of the song, supported by one of John Stirratt’s rare bass leads. “Art of Almost” is a song every band wishes it could write.

Unfortunately, the rest of the album sounds nothing like “Art of Almost.” In fact, the second song, “I Might” is vastly different. It has a cheerful, walk-in-the-park vibe with a choppy beat and catchy tune. The theme continues into other tracks “Born Alone” and “Dawned on Me,” but these three songs don’t define the album. The other songs are fairly darker and more low-key.

Like most Wilco records, “The Whole Love” requires more than one listen to experience full enjoyment of the album. “Black Moon” is a shy and somber song that could easily be missed, even though it’s one of the best tracks on the record.

Finishing the album is “One Sunday Morning,” which is the most beautiful and intricate track on the entire album, leaving fans with 12 minutes of satisfaction. Band leader Jeff Tweedy takes a Bob Dylan approach to writing the lyrics, focusing on storytelling rather than fitting each word into a rhyming scheme. Having a shorter version of the song would not sustain the finesse and intimacy the album needs.

From start to finish, “The Whole Love” is a beautiful, fun and innovative record that will secure a distinctive place in Wilco’s diverse discography. Listeners will be eager to press rewind to study each song and ensure that no sound or instrument goes unnoticed. Perhaps someday Radiohead can be called “England’s Wilco.”

“The Whole Love” is available on CD, vinyl and digital download next Tuesday.