MUSIC REVIEW | Wilco – The Whole Love (2011)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “A logical and satisfying step forward from Wilco (The Album).

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As the awesome documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart showed, Wilco was a band that never let their record label exert too much control.  The entire narrative of that movie is them sticking to their guns and being dropped from their label because of an unwillingness to compromise their vision of what would become their major breakthrough, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.  But even with what I assume was plenty of freedom, they did spend a lot of years making music on someone else’s dime.  Until The Whole Love, the first Wilco record released on the band’s own label.  So, what did that mean for the sounds of a long running, critically praise band with a fervent, faithful fanbase?

With Glenn Kotche’s clockwork drums ushering in some ominous, synth the lush, mysterious soundscape, Art of Almost is like no other Wilco song to have come before.  But as soon as Jeff Tweedy’s unmistakable vulnerability comes in with the vocals, The Whole Love is immediately Wilco record.  And the first five minutes in no way hint at the awesome, blistering rock that’s to come in the final two or three minutes, courtesy of Nels Cline and his scorching guitar work.

With I Might, it’s back to the sunny, cheery bounce that filled so much of this record’s predecessor, Wilco (The Album).  The dancing organ and tripping glockenspiel highlight an upbeat acoustic pop jaunt, with Cline’s guitar always there to add the perfectly juxtaposed sparks of distorted rock.

After the gently soaring strings of Sunloathe, it’s back to poppy optimism wrapped up in Wilco’s signature intricacies and musical layering with Dawned on Me.  When you have a song that can seamlessly incorporate a little whistling, you have an upbeat toe tapper on your hands.  Getting back to the alt country roots of Tweedy and bass player John Stirratt’s old band Uncle Tupelo, Black Moon is a finger picked, acoustic lament, filled out perfectly with plenty of pedal steel guitar and even more melancholic reflection.

Sounding like the song used in the slow dance from a prom scene in a movie set in the 50s, Open Mind is a sensitive band making the most of a style that could surpass

sensitive and become saccharin.  But there’s a heart on their sleave sincerity to Wilco to make it work.  It’s also a real change up in the overall tone of this record.  The Whole Love has a few quiet moments before this one, but there’s something more restrained going on here.  Like the band wanted make sure the album hadn’t become predictable.  The vintage throwbacks continue with the washboard ramble of Capitol City.
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The changeups keep coming as the guitar pop/rock of Standing O turns into the sweet, gentleness of Rising Red Lung, before the acoustic happiness of the title track.   But even with the increased jumping around from style to style in the second half, The Whole Love still feels like a complete, coherent, consistent album.  While never going crazy with the freedom of making a record 100% on their own terms with their own label, The Whole Love is a logical and satisfying step forward from Wilco (The Album).  And it’s also what I like a band of this vintage.  They’re not trying to chase any trends or make any big changes for change’s sake.  Wilco are following their own path, slowly, steadily and organically letting it take them where it will.

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Other Opinions Are Available.  What did these people have to say about The Whole Love?
The A.V Club
Pitchfork
The Hurst Review

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