Wilco’s got a new record coming out, their seventh, set to be released on June 30. The album’s called Wilco (The Album), and it’s one of those late-career, self-titled deals, so I suppose we may need some reminding that it is a record properand not some sort of greatest hits package. I caught wind that they were streaming the new record for fans and the Wilco-curious. So I headed over to Wilcoworld to check it out, only to discover that the free stream hyperlink had been supplanted by a pre-order hyperlink.

Well. I guess the next logical step would be to download it illegally. But I’ve been there, done that, and homey don’t play that anymore. It’s not good, unless you’re stealing from an artist who deserves it (say, Kid Rock). I’m living happily in the post-pirating era.

So while I’ve decided to abstain from stealing Wilco (The Album) I can’t help but wonder what the damn thing sounds like. And the more I think about it the easier it is to imagine exactly what Wilco (The Album) sounds like. Have things in the Wilco camp become this predictable? Are the days of wild sound experiments over?

And what does the album mean anymore? Who’s making them? Who’s listening to them?

So many questions.

But I’ve gotta give props to Jeff Tweedy. The title of the new record is pretty crafty. As lovers and thieves, we sometimes need reminding of what is what. The title of Wilco (The Album) says: “Look kids (or dads & uncles), this is an album and we are a band, so enjoy it one song at a time. Take us seriously. Don’t steal it, buy a T-shirt, and, for the sake of all that is decent, don’t shuffle this into your iTunes and forget!”

Anyway. Since I won’t actually hear Wilco (The Album) until June 30 what follows (the italics should suggest the future) is an imaginary review of the band’s latest effort.

It’s rather bewildering to think that so many fans felt unsatisfied with 2007’s Sky Blue Sky. Many labeled the album “dad-rock” and lamented endlessly that Wilco had forgotten how to rock.

One question: When did Wilco ever rock?

The last time they rocked proper was arguably on 1996’s Being There (“Dreamer in my Dreams”), and most of the hipster-fans-in-need-of-rocking weren’t even fans of the band back then. I know because I saw Wilco several times in the late 90’s and found myself in a sea of very uncool, non-rocking people. There was a lot of standing still. A lot of male pattern baldness and wearing of socks with sandals. The last time Wilco rocked hard was on “Casino Queen” (A.M.) and they never seem to play that song live anymore.

And since when did Wilco have to rock? Jeff Tweedy isn’t a rocker, by Thin Lizzy’s definition. He knows this. That’s why he wrote “Heavy Metal Drummer”, which sorta rocks, but moreover proclaims his sincere appreciation for those heavy metal bands of yore that actually did rock. Jeff’s a family man now. He’s conquered depression and drug addiction and his band is more popular and more respected than ever. There are more important things than rocking. I saw Wilco play at a college theatre back in 1996 and after the show Jeff spent the remainder of his evening playing with his son. That rocks, but not in the traditional sense of the term.

Give Tweedy (The Singer) a break. So Wilco (The Album) does not rock. At least it rocks softly. That counts for something, doesn’t it?

Most importantly, Wilco (The Album) should mark the end of Wilco as a cult band. I imagine a lot of the Pitchforkers attracted to anything critically lauded ( For example, 2002’s sorta overrated Yankee Hotel Foxtrot) will drift off to edgier pastures. Or maybe they will become dads.

And we must remember the cruel reality that Wilco is a Midwestern band, and all Midwestern rock bands struggle with not rocking hard enough or not being cool enough, as it were. The only exception to this rule might be Urge Overkill, a Chicago band who suffered for being too cool and rocking too hard for the genteel Midwestern temperament.

Distinguished Tracks from Wilco (The Album):

“I’ll Fight”

In which Tweedy explains what he will do if you accuse him of too much dad-rocking.

“Wilco (The Song)”

The album’s bouncy self-conscious opener is—whoa—fun. And fun Wilco is good. Should the band refer to themselves as Wilco (The Band) that might not be so fun.

“You and I”

Feist is on it.

You can purchase Wilco (The Album) exclusively at Moo & Oink and White Hen Pantry.

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JUSTIN BENTON has written for the Nervous Breakdown since 2009. He co-authored Board with Brad Listi, a literary collage released by TNB Books in 2012. He is now a father and is currently writing an ongoing pantoum poem you can find here.

5 responses to “(The Review): An Imaginary Review 
of Wilco’s New Album Wilco 
(The Album)

  1. Jim Simpson says:

    I really enjoyed your imaginary review. So, Justin, it’s WAY past June 30 now. How’s the album?

  2. Justin Benton says:

    I stand by my words. Wilco (The Album) does not rock.

    It’s a bit of a hit-and-miss record. There’s much mid-tempo, too quiet soft folk-rocking. I think Tweedy’s kind of a boring guy. But I like that. I’m a boring guy too.

    Distinguished tracks (after actually listening to the record):

    “Wilco (The Song)”
    “Bull Black Nova”
    “I’ll Fight”
    “Sonny Feeling”

  3. Jim Simpson says:

    The last Wilco album that excited me was Summerteeth. If you want some genuine excitement, check out Those Darlins.

  4. Joe Daly says:

    Just stumbled across this. Really good stuff, Justin. I’ve been a Wilco fan for years- when they were up and coming in Chicago, I got to see them play some pretty small rooms, plus I saw a good number of Jeff Tweedy solo shows. Good stuff.

    But, as you say, Tweedy’s not the most upbeat/approachable guy. He used to get mad at the audience for talking during his solo shows. In crowded barrooms.

    I liked the last album overall. A couple misses, but a couple tunes hit me right away, and others grew on me. It’s a great break up album. I’m looking forward to getting into another relationship so it can break up and I can listen to the album in that light. It’s going to be epic…

  5. […] Admirer of the Talking Heads, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and “Wilco.” […]

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