As with any Wilco record, it’s almost impossible for me to really make a judgement on the music until I hear it live. I kinda hated Sky Blue Sky until I saw the band perform in Davenport. The music takes on a completely different feeling when it’s being played right in front of you. Even the more mundane parts of Wilco (The Album) come across well when Jeff Tweedy is singing twenty feet away.
Anyone who loves Wilco knows that starting yesterday at noon, the band streamed The Whole Love in it’s entirety. I’ve listened to it a bunch of times, and I think I’m ready to tell you my initial reaction:
The Whole Love is a really amazing record for about half the time, and a so-so record the other half. The opening song, “Art of Almost,” is exactly what I was looking for on this new release-a return to sonically interesting rock music that explores every corner of the songs. We get that on a couple others as well, but this first track is the best of that sort.
Much of the record is wrestling with the same issues the previous two did-the songs just aren’t up to the potential we all know EVERY Wilco song has. Tweedy seems to be happy sticking with the 70’s AM radio folkiness that plagued Wilco (The Album). Nels Cline explodes when he’s given the opportunity, but spends much of the time buried in the background.
One song that I really like is “Open Mind.” It’s a slow ballad, and I originally heard it at the Rahm Emanuel fundraiser we hit way back in January. That performance by Jeff, and this song in particular, really reminded me why I love Wilco so much. It’s a beautiful, slow almost-country song that I could listen to all day. Of the 12 songs on The Whole Love, this one is probably the best, lyrically.
I could base my whole existence
upon the cherry strings of your gold hair
I would ask, almost insist
upon treating you kind and fair
Oh I could only dream of the dreams we’d have
our hearts would be entwined
if you would let me be the one
to open up your mind
The problem, I think, is that there is too much balance. Like they recorded a bunch of songs and said, “Ok…we have a fast rockin song here, so let’s slow it down on the next one. This one’s kinda mid-tempo, so let’s do another one like that.” It’s infuriating, because it feels like there was some compromising done that hinders the record. This is the first on Wilco’s new label they’ve created for themselves, so I find it interesting that this is the creative approach they’ve taken.
Here is a list of the good stuff: “Art of Almost,” “I Might,” Dawned On Me,” “Open Your Mind,” “Standing O,” “Rising Red Lung,” and “One Sunday Morning.”
The not so good: “Black Moon,” “Capitol City,” “The Whole Love,” “Born Alone,” and “Sunloathe.”
So the good outweighs the bad by a slight margin. Again, this will all change after I hear the songs live on October 5th in Madison. I think this will be the sixth time we’ve seen the band, and I’ve never been disappointed with a live show, so I’m guessing I’ll like these songs a lot more afterward.