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Wilco: The Whole Love
on 28 September 2011
This is Wilco's eighth studio album and the first on their own label, dBpm (an abbreviation of 'decibels per minute'). Over the course of their career they have evolved from alt-country beginnings to their current position as one of the best and most respected bands on the planet. Wilco have always has been Jeff Tweedy's band - he is their creative and driving force and one of only two remaining founding members. Never afraid to challenge their fan base, this is a welcome return to form after 2009's largely underwhelming 'Wilco (The Band)'.
A mix of acoustic and plugged-in rock, this album encompasses many of the styles found on their previous releases. Opener 'Art of Almost', with its programmed beats and electronic effects, would sit comfortably on either 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot' or, given Nels Cline's riffing on the extended outro, 'A Ghost Is Born'. The power chords of 'I Might' (which samples The Stooges 'TV Eye') hark back to 'Summerteeth' and the alt-country 'Open Mind' could almost be lifted from 'Sky Blue Sky'. Further highlights include the 12 minute album closer 'One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley's Boyfriend)', a gorgeous acoustic number with lyrics about a father and son relationship, and the punchy 'Standing O'. 'Dawned On Me' features excellent guitar work and some brief snatches of vocal harmonies. 'Capitol City', although not particularly bad, is the low point - lightweight and whimsical, it sounds like a Beatles tribute. The bonus disc features a tongue-in-cheek cover of Nick Lowe's 'I Love My Label' - the band released it as a single to celebrate the launch of their label. The guitar driven instrumental 'Speak Into the Rose' is the twin of 'Spiders (Kidsmoke)' from 'A Ghost Is Born'. As always, Tweedy's vocals compliment the music perfectly.
This Limited Edition Deluxe 2-CD set is accompanied by 52 page booklet that features the lyrics, band portraits and extensive artwork by the sleeve designer. The CDs are housed in cardboard slipcases and these in turn are housed in a sturdy outer-case alongside the booklet. The combined playing time of both discs is a generous 75 minutes.
With their own label and the current line-up having been in place for five years now, Wilco sound like a band reinvigorated and, paradoxically, a band at ease with themselves. This may not quite be their best album, but it's certainly one of their best.