In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “It’s even more optimistic and upbeat than I remember.”
A band self titling a debut album always seems lazy to me, or like a missed opportunity. How could you already be out of ideas, or over the novelty fun of coming up with cool, fun, crazy stuff, by the time you’re naming your first record? But a long running band self titling an album well into their career, with plenty of other releases before that? To me, that’s interesting, that’s a band making a statement. Like when Metallica did it with the record that just so happened to make them one of the biggest acts on the world. Or when the Beatles did it with what is still seen as one of their best, and one of the best of all time from any band. So what did it mean when Wilco went with Wilco (The Album)?
The title is already casual and playful in a way that I don’t think people would really associate with the band’s work before this time. Calling the opening song Wilco (The Song) pushes that casual playfulness even further. Building it on a peppy beat and dancing riffs, all in support of lyrics like, “Wilco will love you baby” all builds to a song declaring the kind of mission statement that makes me love a long running band self titling an album well into their career.
It’s back to the more familiar, melancholy reflections that I expect from Jeff Tweedy with One Wing. It’s also a song that makes me notice drummer Glenn Kotche. He’s the kind of drummer who’s not content to supply the most obvious beat just to get the job done. He’ll find interesting rhythms almost arrhythmic spins on things that make a song more interesting, while never drawing you much attention to himself. And as the melancholic reflections crescendo, Nels Cline is free to let loose with some of his personal brand of guitar weirdness.
Analogue instruments are used to make electronic style monotony on Bull Black Nova. But it’s a monotony that is supremely effecting, almost hypnotising. From there it’s some tender sweetness on You And I before some energetic acoustic rock fun on You Never Know, which leads into the piano balladry of Country Disappeared. Wilco (The Album) really is everything Wilco the band has to offer, proudly on display. With I’ll Fight, killing in the name of passion never sounded so sweet. The good vibes keep on coming with Wilco (The Album’s’) penultimate track, Sonny Feeling. Possibly the most sunny Wilco song of all time.
When I wrote about this album’s predecessor, Blue Sky Blue, I said it seemed like, “the clear beginning of the today’s happier, more optimistic outlook.” And that I remembered the subsequent albums as sounding, “like a much more content Jeff Tweedy.” I haven’t listened to Wilco (The Album) top to bottom in one sitting in a couple of years. Hearing it again today, it’s even more optimistic and upbeat than I remember. The tracks I still revisit often are as fresh as ever, and the ones I haven’t heard for a while make a great case for being tracks I should also revisit often.