A band that sounds like they've based every last aspect of their sound solely on Brian Eno's "St. Elmo's Fire" doesn't need to do much more than that to get me hooked. And they don't.
Second: I'm sad that this album is kind of a bore. It's interesting, and kind of like Star Wars it has a very consistent palette, and feels unfussy and natural. But the songs just aren't working for me, and something about Tweedy's delivery is very sleepy; he never raises his voice higher than 'man trying to be quiet while recording bedroom demo as not to wake his neighbors.' It becomes a little grating after a while. It's a choice, sure, but he does it on every song and it doesn't hold up.
Third, and most importantly: Wilco has clearly and obviously entered a new phase of their recording career. Their albums are no longer events. They're no longer Statements. They're just collections of songs, some good, some not good, all basically less than their previous output. In fact, I believe the last truly great song they've recorded was "Wilco (the song)", which was the lead track on Wilco (the album), and simultaneously acted as the end of phase 1 and the beginning of phase 2. They just as easily could've ended their recording career by releasing the song as a single and saying "goodbye," and it would've been the perfect ending. Which in a way it did, because the rest of that album was mostly a snooze—albeit a competent one—as was The Whole Love and Star Wars and now Schmilco. Also interesting that they've now released almost as many albums in this new phase, four, as the five they released in their Important Classic Album phase. Or depending on your feelings about Sky Blue Sky those numbers are flipped (I of course believe Sky Blue Sky to be a masterpiece and disregard any arguments to the contrary, and in fact my defense of Sky Blue Sky is written into the very mission of this blog). In fact, I'd actually take my 2-phase theory farther and say that this second phase is now into 2b, starting with Star Wars, the point where Wilco themselves have realized that they no longer share their younger selves' ambitions, and aren't even trying to record Important Statements, which they were perhaps attempting and failing on Wilco (the album) and The Whole Love. Now they're just hanging in a studio and recording tunes and not worrying too much about it, which is probably why these last two are certainly more enjoyable than the former two. Which is to say: Schmilco isn't bad at all. But it's absolutely not Summerteeth.
Fourth: You know, actually, the fact that it's called Wilco Schmilco is actually the most important thing here. That is amazing. I love this band.
* This does not count the Magnolia soundtrack, which would be neck and neck with Bachelor, because it's not really actually a real actual album, really.
** By which I mean "listen to half of," because as much as I love Aimee Mann, I can generally only can stand about 6–7 songs before I need a break. This of course doesn't count for the Magnolia soundtrack, which not really actually a real actual album, really.
The Hunger Games
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
I wish I could say it was worth the wait, but it's pretty much a bore. Can't wait for part three around my 40th birthday.
But there's a twist! (Spoiler alert!)
After soldiering through the bulk of the album, as nice as it might be, just when you're feeling worn out by the haze and fuzz, this guy turns around and picks up an acoustic guitar, and plays one of the most beautiful songs you've heard all year. It's essentially a coda, a straight, undistorted version of the first track of the record, and the sheer craftsmanship and virtuosity of it knocked me on my butt. And more than that, it made me want to scream at my speakers, "Ian William Craig, why are you hiding this? Why are you covering this shit in distortion and muck?" If this guy just sat down with his guitar and a piano, he could record one of the best singer-songwriter albums of the year, I'm sure of it. But for now, I guess all we get is art.
But more importantly, my latest trip (only my second) to Wally's struck a blow to everything I hold dear and true, and I don't know what to think anymore. When you get your roast beef sandwich at Wally's—and Mavericks and Penn Lake and Broncos—you take it over to the toppings bar, where you can top it with onion, horseradish, peppers, lettuce, and barbecue sauce. At this hour, I was feeling like barbecue sauce, so I slopped some on the wrapper and sat down. But when I dipped the sandwich and took a bite, the sensation was familiar. A little bit of tang. A little bit of sour. A little bit of sweet. I've tasted this before. OMG it's the same barbecue sauce as Ted Cooke's! Can this be true? Is Ted Cooke's just buying their sauce from some hack food service distributor? But why is it I've never tasted this particular sauce anywhere else? It's very unique! Almost hoisin-y. And delicious. And I love Ted Cooke's barbecue with every ounce of my soul. But how can I continue to love a lie? What do I do now?