The Whole Love

If by chance you still hold the notion that Wilco is an alt-country rock band time to let go of that misnomer. Although they first gained recognition as curators of the genre they have long since moved beyond that narrow description. Wilco began experimenting with songs structure, rhythms, and ambient noise shortly after their debut release. Jeff Tweedy has led the band in brave new directions and the band has passionately embraced the journey.

The Whole Love opens with crunchy, electronic beeps, feedback, and off-kilter rhythms. This track, “Art of Almost” features Tweedy’s sparse vocals sprinkled throughout 7 minutes of burgeoning fuzz guitar, piano, and synthesizer. To counter the effects of the opening track, the second song, “I Might,” drops 4 minutes of pure pop on you. Such is the experience of listening to Wilco, a band that can deliver a perfectly sweet dance number as well as an aggressive rock dirge that pushes the boundaries of expectations.

The Whole Love offers several beautiful ballads. “Black Moon” is as close to alt-country as you’ll find on this release, with mournful slide guitar offset by subdued strings. Likewise, “Rising Red Lung,” and “Sunloathe” features fastidious arrangements and pensive atmosphere. “Dawned On Me” is a happy love song for the mature relationship. The band takes another tack on the title track that sounds like it comes from the era of sweet boy bands like The Monkees. “Capitol City” is a jaunty ballad that has been winning comparisons to the Beatles – think “Your Mother Should Know.” “Born Alone” is quintessential Wilco – assuming there is such a thing. It features a melodic stroll and jangling guitar riffs found on some of Wilco’s earlier work. Standing O” returns the band to land of rockers with unrestrained joy and guitar solos. The album ends with the 12 minute long, introspective “One Sunday Morning” in which Tweedy examines a father and son relationship. Determined to redefine his lyrical process, Tweedy took time off from touring – a rare act – to focus on this album.

Wilco is one of the most innovative bands of the last 15 years, never content to be defined by any one style. Besides Tweedy only bassist John Stirratt remains from the original lineup. The band has grown and changed direction with the additions of guitarist Nels Cline, multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone and Mikael Jorgenssen, and drummer Glenn Kotche. Therein lies the allure of Wilco, a masterful band that defies convention in order to follow their well traveled muse.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix Host)