Wilco is one of the greatest bands of their generation. At this point in their career, they can put out just about anything, much like Radiohead, and it will be met with fanfare, and immediate classic status.
The band moves from one album to the next, and one genre to the next, always challenging themselves to stay diverse, relevant, with tremendous songwriting ability. The band has untethered themselves in the past, think Yankee, Foxtrot, Hotel, or Sky Blue Sky, but with their newest release, Schmilco, the band find themselves resisting that temptation, finding solace in writing really good, yet restrained, songs that showcase songwriting ability rather than free-form jazz-country that has given them pedestal status.
There is a grey tone to this collection of songs beginning with album opener “Normal American Kids” a somber and poetic song speaking directly to the subdued attitude of the record. “If I Ever Was a Child” doesn’t bring that somber theme into a new arena, but instead filters the warmth of slide guitar through a chilled veil, albeit with worthy harmony. The trio of “Common Sense”, “Nope”, and “Someone to Lose” bring the record some upbeat polish, but still stay somewhat in their lane. “Quarters” is a little ditty that could be sung on the loft of the barn down by the river, with a noticeable, and catchy backbeat. “Locator” is the single left of center track on the record, filling Wilco’s quota.
While Schmilco certainly isn’t the band’s most ambitious record, what this one lacks in ambition to the passerby, is a lesson in restraint for the band. Wilco has so long dazzled its fans with artistic fervor, and new roads into what “country” music can be, that we sometimes forget just how great Tweedy and company are when they just write really good, sing-along songs.
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