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20 Watts Reviews Wilco (The Album) by 20watts
Wilco (The Album) is good, but more of the same

Wilco (The Album) is good, but more of the same

Preview: Wilco and Feist, “You and I” MP3
Previous Wilco coverage:
Wilco Streamed

For a band that’s been around for fifteen years, you have to wonder why Wilco hadn’t yet released a self-titled album. The Beatles did it after just six years, it was Iron Maiden’s first choice, Weezer repeated it three times over. Ideally, a self-titled album explains the overall sound of a band (the reason the White Album is thirty tracks long, and Weezer is color-coded). To that effect, Wilco (The Album)’s eleven tracks succeed admirably.

The overall feel of Wilco on first listen is nothing terribly groundbreaking. It’s what we’ve come to expect: guitar noodling, Jeff Tweedy’s calm, relaxed voice, some slight country influences, and catchy songwriting. Wilco might have cut their most accessible, comprehensive record to date.

Wilco offers a nice selection of tracks that both fit the band’s image and explore its influences. Tracks like “Wilco (The Song),” “I’ll Fight,” and “You and I” hearken back to their alternative country roots. “Deeper Down,” “Bull Black Nova,” and “Country Disappeared” showcase their later experimental work.

“You and I,” a duet with Feist about two lovers struggling with a relationship, is the highlight of the album. The Canadian singer’s lilting voice complements Tweedy’s more than effectively, despite lyrics that cover the same ground as numerous other Wilco songs (“Say You Miss Me,” “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” etc.).

Likewise, “Country Disappeared,” a Dylanesque folk-influenced lament seemingly inspired by the current United States, plays like a classic Americana tune. Its only fault might be Jeff Tweedy’s slightly cracking voice, but thankfully that doesn’t get in the way of beautifully lyrical songwriting: “You’ve got the helicopters dangling angling to shoot, / The shots to feed the hungry weekend news crew anchorman.”

Though people call Wilco the American Radiohead, a release doesn’t need to be Kid A to be a fine album. Wilco’s latest release doesn’t break any new ground. What it does do, like many albums of its kind, is introduce listeners to the band’s sound. It may be miles behind 2002’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but as a history of Wilco’s densely varied sound, Wilco (The Album) doesn’t disappoint.

— Eric Vilas-Boas

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