It’s here where it becomes clear that Wilco was never interested in being the American Radiohead, that they just wanted to be themselves. Which, is, of course, a disappointment, because Wilco means less to most people than Radiohead, and it’s also a disappointment because a band who built a reputation from seismic sonic shifts from album to album, would stick to the same sound two albums in a row. I don’t care about any of that; nor should you. That Wilco (The Album) is a disappointment is simply because of the songs – the fucking music, specifically in the second half. The specifics, in order as they come:
~I love the opener, and I have fond memories of a friend asking me, with a goofy smile, if I had heard “the song, ‘Wilco,’ from the album, ‘Wilco,’ by the band, Wilco?” while we worked long hours on Sundays as dishwashers (fun fact: ‘dish-pit,’ which was the name of the area, is an anagram of dipshit, which is what you were if you worked there). The majority of Wilco’s songs have a sunkissing warmth to them, mostly because of Jeff Tweedy’s fatherly voice, and here, he drops abstract pretensions for a simple promise – that Wilco loves you, even if “this isn’t your life”, even if “you dabble in depression.” “A sonic shoulder for you to cry,” indeed (lovely chiming bells in the bridge, there). And highest compliment incoming: with the ringing guitar chord and the descending riff underneath, this is catchier than anything off Summerteeth.
~”Deeper Down” might not have much in the way of tune (though there are some lovely fills), it’s actually one of the most interesting songs here; the song’s extended instrumental passages recall the pastoral journeys of Selling England by a Pound (specifically, “Fifth of Firth”’s bridge). While the rest of the album sounds like stuff you’d expect Wilco to be capable of, “Deeper Down”’s instrumental passages are the only time on Wilco (The Album) where they flash something new.
~One wing will never fly / Neither yours nor mine / I fear we can only wave goodbye” is a good lyric.
~Ranking Wilco’s post-A Ghost is Born output is a fool’s errand, but I’m not so sure why so many people have decided that Wilco (The Album) is worse than Sky Blue Sky (it’s easier to figure out why this one has a lesser reputation than The Whole Love: that one is more ‘challenging’, which, to some people, means it’s inherently better). Is it because this one has a goofy album cover and a goofy title, and Sky Blue Sky doesn’t?
Or, is it because Sky Blue Sky has “Impossible Germany?” Rebuttal: “Bull Black Nova” is just as good. I always thought A Ghost is Born’s “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” was too long, so hearing that song’s Krautrock groove and menace, but directed in a much more economic context, is a delight; really dig the passage starting at the 2:23 mark, where high notes shronk themselves into the melody before settling down just to start into a crescendo.
~”You Never Know” is apparently a highlight, but it sounds like George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” with a lot of what made “My Sweet Lord” great removed.
~Leslie Feist adding harmonies to “You and I”’s pleasant melody makes for a pleasant song, though the song’s bridge (“Oooooh, I don’t wanna know!”) was ill-advised because the harmonies fall apart and the sudden dynamic shifts make for a rude awakening.
~”Sonny Feeling” is a riff-based, stilted rocker that should remind everyone that this was never Wilco’s forte.
~”Everlasting Everything”’s crescendo-ing hook is so rote that it’s hard to imagine anyone getting any sort of catharsis from it.