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Wilco's seventh heaven

Wilco - (the album)
(Nonesuch Records)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Aug. 5, 2009

Review by Tony Bonyata

Less experimental and "out there" than their 2004 release A Ghost Is Born, and not as predictably safe and straightforward as their last effort, 2007's Sky Blue Sky, Wilco has, nonetheless, created one of the strongest albums of their 15-year career with their seventh full-length studio effort, Wilco (the album).

On it, Chicago bandleader Jeff Tweedy leads the current incarnation of Wilco (featuring John Stirratt, Glenn Kotche, Nels Cline, Pat Sansone and Mikael Jorgensen) through an invigorating ride that touches on the many musical facets that have made Wilco one of the most respected and revered American rock bands of the last decade. Although there are many that still conveniently lump their style into the Americana and alt-country genre pools, they've proven time and again - and not always directly to their faithful - that they're becoming more and more difficult to pigeon-hole with each new release (and thankfully so).

From the alt-country sounds that they originally mined from Tweedy's former band Uncle Tupelo to melodic indie-pop and beautifully introspective numbers to an experimental avant-garde nature that rivals Radiohead looking for their next new sound, Wilco has brought a bit of it all to the table for this outing.

The album kicks off appropriately with the upbeat, driving rocker "Wilco (The Song)," where Tweedy sings cheekily that no matter what happens in the face of adversity that, "Wilco... Wilco... Wilco will love you baby." Pulling a bit of the angular rhythms of indie rockers Spoon for the number "Bull Black Nova," the band interjects guitar dissonance and other sonic delights to give the song real depth, while also incorporating a flash of Neil Young & Crazy Horse's guitar squalls at the close of the bittersweet track "One Wing," where Tweedy laments over a failed relationship.

Two of the album's many highlights are the lilting pop of "You And I," where Tweedy duets with Canadian indie-chanteuse Leslie Feist before the song fades with a psychedelic backwards guitar loop, as well as the brilliant "I'll Fight," a song of love and devotion that perfectly balances folk, rock and poetry.

Two other tracks from the album pay obvious homage to The Beatles' George Harrison. Both the snappy "You Never Know" and "Sonny Feeling" sound like they were ripped directly out of George's Traveling Wilburys' songbook, and it's a firm reminder just how strong that material was, and still is. Even more though, Wilco (the album) is further proof that these Chicago veterans are, arguably, one the greatest American rock bands still creating challenging music that even the masses can't ignore.

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