Wilco: The Whole Love
In recent years, Wilco have been accused of mellowing out and abandoning the ambitious experimentation they fostered on albums such as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born. Whether or not you agree with that, once you hear “Art of Almost” you’ll have no doubt about their direction. The Whole Love‘s opening track is rife with weird atmospherics and loops and ends with a Krautrock-out section that you don’t see coming. The following track and first single, “I Might,” is a conventional pop song at it’s heart but the band plays around with it enough to make it anything but conventional. Covering it with organ, xylophone, fuzzed out bass, and plenty of guitars, the whole personality of the song is changed. They do the same trick on “Dawned On Me,” not content to let a catchy song be without heaps of noise, and it turns out to be one of the best tracks on the album.
That’s not to say that this is esoteric music made for students of the avant-garde. “Rising Red Lung” and “Black Moon” are fairly standard finger-picked folk and “Standing O” is a straight ahead rocker. “One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)” isn’t even that offbeat except for the fact that it’s twelve minutes long. The length didn’t bother me though. I’ve always believed in giving an artist space to develop their ideas and Wilco have always had ideas worth developing. The Whole Love isn’t another game-changer like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but it is another great album by a great band.
The deluxe edition has four bonus tracks, which are decent but mostly unessential except for one. The joyous, rollicking cover of Nick Lowe’s “I Love My Label” was most likely included here to celebrate the formation of their own record label, dBpm Records, on which The Whole Love is the first release. On this track we get to hear the band having fun, something that doesn’t always come through in their music. While I love all the serious music they put out, it’s good to know that sometimes they can just lay back and have a good time.