Wilco and the Art of Almost
Truth: I knew what I was going to do with this week’s strip before I even heard a note of Wilco’s fine new elpee The Whole Love… once I saw the title, I knew I’d be dragging Courtney Love into it, and I should thank her for that…
I’m fairly certain I’ve done a Stripwax comic for every Wilco record made since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot back in 2002 and really didn’t want to regurgitate past comic ideas so, yeah… thanks Ms. Love!
So… Wilco has been at it since 1995 with Jeff Tweedy as the constant, reliable song-generating hub, and over time he’s moved his band beyond the initial realism of boxes full of letters, casino queens, and so forth into dalliances with eclectronica (yes there IS such a word cuz I just made it up) and with the past several elpeez, Wilco has straddled both worlds, old and new. My personal rap on Wilco records over the years has been this: for every piece of outstanding popcraft Tweedy gives up, he also gives up a track to set yer snooze alarm to, lulling listeners into a, uh, wilcoma (if you will) BUT… no such issues arise during The Whole Love listening experience. “One Sunday Morning (Song For Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)” comes close, extending it’s experimental self into eleven-plus minutes of atmospheric hoo-haa, as does “The Art Of Almost,” (a good name for the inevitable career-spanning Wilco boxset) which lacks a compelling melody and thus remains shapeless until the band wakes up and whips up a ferocious jam to finish it off. Other than that, tho, Tweedy is hitting home runs. “I Might” is so catchy and infectious, the deaf can dance to it (sounds like an Alex Chilton boxtopper, no fooling). “Dawned On Me” has melodious muscle, a guitar meltdown in the middle, and some pretty sweet and breezy whistling. “Born Alone” is Tweedy at his certified pop master-craftsman best, wrapping buoyant basslines and vocal melodies around lines like “I was born to die alone.”
As always is the case with Wilco, The Whole Love ain’t perfect, but it’s awfully goddamned good.