Monday, December 19, 2011

The Whole Love - Wilco (2011 Honorable Mentions)

The Whole Love

dBpm Records.

SCQ Rating: 80%

 Skeleton Crew Quarterly arrived late to Wilco’s adventurous return, and backwards. On a rocky, unmarked highway that winded the roofless rest-stops outside Montego Bay, Jamaica, I let closing track ‘One Sunday Morning’ fill my heart; from there I was sneaking my way through The Whole Love’s back-door. As such, I’ve had a hard time bonding with these songs as honestly as I had with, say, A Ghost Is Born. Although my wedding preparations and honeymoon no doubt clouded the record’s hype and release, it’s just as likely that my personal divide exists because The Whole Love is downright bizarre.

And thank the heavens. I mean, I don’t think I could’ve swallowed another bland placebo on the scale of Wilco (The Album) but a return to the convoluted pop labyrinth of Summerteeth is something else entirely. Don’t let ‘Art Of Almost’ have you believing that Wilco are going off the deep end; in reality, it’s a seven-minute knot of red herrings – electronic rhythms, unusually hip discord, and a bewildering guitar freak-out – that nonetheless primes us for the unknown. Like the Jamaican hills our small convoy tripped along, The Whole Love’s momentum never settles amid dreamy ballads (‘Sunloathe’) and wide-eyed roots-rock (‘Born Alone’). In fact, Wilco’s habit of constantly combing our expectations with one song before rubbing against the grain with the next creates more friction than the record needs (really, does ‘Capitol City’ fit in anywhere on this disc?). But friction proves far more interesting than the band’s complacently mellow stuff, and Wilco scopes out new songwriting avenues with combustible results.

More than anything I'm just excited to hear Wilco hungry again, spinning their creative wheels as opposed to resting on lazy laurels. That surprise, in and of itself, won’t be enough to rival the band’s previous classics but The Whole Love offers more than its share of quality cuts to suggest that Wilco aren’t hanging their American rock crowns on MOR rock quite yet.

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