I think at this point I might be the king of the 3 1/2 star Wilco album review. This can be attributed to the fact that I am a pretty big Wilco fan, even though I realize they’re not really the sexiest band to admit to being a big fan of. Also, my Wilco fandom has blossomed mostly during the latter years of Wilco’s run as one of the more ubiquitous American indie rock bands. Which means I still like them enough to write about them, it’s just that the Mildly Pleased era of Wilco hasn’t been the most exciting phase in their career.
That said, it doesn’t mean this hasn’t been a rewarding part of their career for longtime fans of the band. In retrospect, 2011’s The Whole Love I’d say is more of a 4-star album (if that means anything), as it saw the band recapturing the glitchy noodling that marked their best work in the late ’90s/early ’00s, and even last year’s lazily named Star Wars had more than its share of moments, even if it felt sort of half-finished. Of course, we can see that it was kind of half-finished now that the band has released its follow up Schmilco, which not only might be even more lazily named, but also serves as a nicer, softer counterpoint to Star Wars. And in the process, it creates a pair of albums that both distinctly embody what I referred to in my Star Wars review as “weird Wilco” and “pretty/pleasant Wilco”.
Now, if I’m being honest, I’m usually a bigger fan of the weirder, more rocking Wilco numbers than the “pretty/pleasant” ones, but maybe that’s because a lot of the time there can be such a stark contrast between the two. Like as much as I’m a fan of The Whole Love, the album does have a kind of weird rhythm to it, since the tracklisting feels like every other song falls into either one or the other of the two categories I’ve been talking about. And since the weirder songs on that album were also super catchy, the ballads tended to feel like somewhat of a burden. So I do almost appreciate the cohesiveness of an album like Schmilco, where every song fits the kind of laid-back reflectiveness you hope to find in a Wilco ballad.
I’m sure if you’re just a casual Wilco fan (which I assume most people with a passing interest in indie rock are), this album probably sounds like it might be a bit boring if you’re not a Wilco die-hard. But what do you expect? At this point, Wilco’s most recent run of albums have been marked by their consistency, now that the band’s current line-up has been rock solid for many years, while Jeff Tweedy has clearly been writing songs for long enough and is a smart enough guy to know where his (and his band’s) strengths lay. And sure, that consistency may not be terribly sexy, but it should be good enough to keep me listening, and it should be good enough to keep me writing even more 3 1/2 star reviews for years to come.
Favorite Tracks: “If I Ever Was A Child”, “Cry All Day”, “Someone To Lose”