Review Summary: A bitesized slice of all things Wilco.
While we’ve seen a few different incarnations of Wilco over their history, the biggest of these changes came between what are arguably two of their greatest accomplishments – ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’ and ‘A Ghost is Born’. While those albums were certainly different flavours of Wilco, both still had the same pixie dust in the air. The members had changed, the sound had changed (to a degree), but the magic was just as magical as ever. In the midst of this transition sits ‘More Like the Moon’, an EP starting life as a bonus disc to the Australian version of YHF, before it appeared on the official website for a while until it faded into obscurity (read: now up for grabs). You might think that, being recorded in such a tumultuous time of a band getting used to itself again, that there might be good reason for it to be left forgotten. Not so. Though it doesn’t rank in prominence as much as it should (and deserves), this is the moment when it was proved that replacing a few members wasn’t the disaster it could easily have been; because this is as Wilco as it gets.
While ‘More Like the Moon’ is largely a foreshadowing of the bands later sound, the opener of ‘Camera’ is old stomping ground; now with a good deal more stomping. In fact, this new bombastic-fantastic version would perhaps make for a better fit to the calamitous ending of ‘I Am Trying To Break Your Heart’ than the original did. With its melee of processed wah-wah guitars and hyper-rhythmic distortion, it’s certainly wild enough – and even though it’s a redoing of a delicately acoustic affair, the ferocious makeover works superbly. This, along with the early version of ‘Handshake Drugs’ that follows, are the perfect opening gambit. They’re a firm assurance that Wilco is now in very safe hands indeed.
While the meat of the EP isn’t as spectacular, it’s certainly solid, and that’s because it is built on firm foundations of the bands core mechanics; simplistic melodies matched improbably with complex aural atmosphere, Tweedy-and-guitar acoustic confessionals sitting next to bubblegum-bubble jukebox-favourite sighs and other seemingly nonsensical combinations that, in spite of themselves, make sense. The band are as creatively unexpected as ever. Performed and mastered to a no-compromises standard (it’s a testament to the professionalism of the band that neither suffer on a mere EP), it is a mini showcase of Wilco’s quality of character. It’s a shame, then, that they go and show themselves up with the finale - which, whilst it leaves all before it floundering in its wake, really is rather special. The title track is simply lush; a serene balance of sophisticated Spanish guitar harmonies and delicately undulating interludes from the earthly bass and the ethereal atmospherics, it’s lie-on-your-back-and-watch-the-stars beautiful. It is the
reason that you’ll find yourself returning to this EP time and time again.
‘More Like the Moon’, despite its obscurity and short run time, accomplishes a great deal. It’s the crucial axis that meant a special band kept on being special after a reshuffle; it’s a wholesome alternative for those that dislike the notriously long runtime of the albums, and can give fans a kick in double-quick time; it makes an easily digestible starting point for newcomers to the band, and having them hungering for more. All of these, for the same reason - because this addictive, fun-sized portion is totally Wilco.