Wilco have been in existence for seventeen years, permanent members Jeff Tweedy and John Stirratt working with various line-ups since 1994. They’ve collected 5 Grammy nominations and fans including Norah Jones and Counting Crows. I was aware of none of this when I sat down to listen to their latest, “The Whole Love”, which led to an interesting research session afterwards and the feeling that I must have missed something. Maybe I should go back and give it another listen, I thought. Maybe it was just me? Then I remembered that the final track was 12 minutes long and had overstayed its welcome by at least 8 of them and I just couldn’t do it.
It had all started so well. The opener, “Art of Almost” was full of DJ Shadow-like cut up beats and orchestral swirls before ending in a heads-down prog-rock wig-out. Fantastic! Then there was “I might” which sounded like the Doors doing a Motown cover. I was still coasting on the enthusiasm generated by the opener so I didn’t get too depressed about that. Sadly it was all downhill from there. The poppier tracks that followed were generally 60s-flavoured psychedelia, derivative but mercifully short. The ballads badly exposed Tweedy’s voice, a drone lacking the range, character or expression to bring to life the country-tinged Americana that infuses the quieter parts of the album. The lyrics throughout were so banal and simplistic Noel Gallagher might have thought twice about using them. They even had a stab at a showtune, “Capitol City” trying to sound like Cole Porter but ending up simply sounding poor.That left “One Sunday Morning” and the endurance trial of Tweedy singing “Oh but its long” over the same four chords for 12 minutes. I agreed with him completely. Maybe I did miss something, maybe more Grammys will come their way, and if Norah Jones were to moan “Oh but it’s long” for 12 minutes it might provoke an entirely different reaction. The reaction I did have was to turn it off and reach for “Flaws” by Bombay Bicycle Club. It must be just me.