Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Album Review: Wilco- Star Wars

Star Wars
**** out of *****
Offering up a free, unannounced until released, album from his popular band was just the sort of "bolt of joy" that main Wilco man Jeff Tweedy was hoping for and (perhaps surprisingly) Star Wars contains the most interesting music Wilco has released in a very long time.  

"EKG" begins things and lets you know the band is mixing it up this go around as the short noise instrumental gives way to "More...". Along with "Joke Explained", "More..." brings the most pop sensibility into these song structures, but musically there are still lots of variations with swirling key layers and guitar lines that color the prettier tunes. Because of this Tweedy's lyrics  are buried more then in the past, and lyrics are certainly not the focal point of this offering which could be a shock for longtime fans.

The band does a lot of sonic experimentation with noise (the album was expertly produced by Tweedy and Tom Schick) and while they have always tempered with it in the past, clearly the focus here is on weirdness. Free albums can often feel tossed off, but this one feels crafted with sounds in the way few pop bands outside of Spoon have done recently. Also helping out is the albums pace, songs are short, and there aren't many of them as these angular offerings never stick past their expiration date.

"Random Name Generator" uses a metallic production matched with the repeated title as a hook all based around fuzzy guitars, while album centerpiece "You Satellite" builds and rises thanks to some fantastic drumming before spacing out with guitars and satisfyingly dissolving into space. "Taste the Ceiling" swirls easily while "Pickled Ginger" picks up the energy but doesn't really do much with it.

The end of the album turns out to be the most interesting and successful as Tweedy alone with acoustic guitar poses the question "Where Do I Begin" before a tape/loop/freakout wraps up the track schizophrenically. The next two tracks are really one song split by title and track-listing only venturing into the glam late 70's pop world.

This medley is called "Cold Slope" and "King of You" sharing an electronic aloofness all centered around a cold/detached groove (first dominated by bass, then guitar) that captures the ear. Putting it on the same side as the warbling, open-ended love song closer "Magnetized" favorably brings to mind mid-era David Bowie, a comparison most Wilco fans would have probably never made before this album.    

While the tile and cover art are odd and hokey respectively, when combined with the music, the total package makes for an lightheartedly charming release that endearingly satisfies and one that will certainly hold up better over the years then many of the bands more "formal" releases.
Support Wilco here, download the album for free here, peep some video below:

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