Wilco
Star Wars


4.0
excellent

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
July 21st, 2015 | 86 replies


Release Date: 2015 | Tracklist

Review Summary: This is not the Wilco you're looking for.

For all the dad-rock slights they receive, Wilco has always been adept at surprises. One can argue that the band has been mining a particularly refined strain of folk rock since 2007’s Sky Blue Sky, but the reality is that sequence denoted a deliberate growth that led to perhaps the finest and most complex distillation of the band’s quirky Americana in 2011’s The Whole Love. It was slow going, yes, but there was a comfort there. Wilco would always be around; Wilco would always drop a reliably great album every few years; Wilco would continue to pull out all the stops in a live show that painted their songs in flames (or whatever you want to call Nels Cline’s guitar playing). Simply put, Wilco would love you, baby. It’s not necessarily true that they needed to drop a free album apropos of nothing, except that it’s 2015 and that’s what artists – particularly artists with the cachet of Wilco – can do. Wilco hasn’t needed to prove anything to anyone in a long, long time.

In its release and its execution, Star Wars embodies that freedom. This is the sound of a cohesive unit letting it rip in the studio for by far the shortest album of their careers – and not a note is misplaced or wasted, despite how (intentionally) messy it sounds. This kind of focus is not surprising, but the way they go about it certainly is. The guitar – skronking from one direction to the next in “EKG,” running itself ragged along a frantic melody on “Pickled Ginger,” and drunkenly imitating the band’s more classic folk-rock motifs throughout “The Joke Explained” – is the star at war with itself here. Or, more appropriately, stars. The intricate lines weaving throughout “You Satellite” constitute one of the best approximations of live Wilco on record yet, one picking its way up through a sparkling, sleepy dream, another chugging persistently through the dirt in the background, yet another desperately tearing itself apart amid feedback and Glenn Kotche’s calamitous drums. While the guitars maintain a steady, fuzzy presence throughout, it’s the record’s loose vibe that gives Star Wars its distinctive tossed-off feel. Occasionally this comes at the expense of Jeff Tweedy, whose lyrics are sometimes reduced to “nonsense that happens to sound good.” More often than not it complements his game persona, which here runs the gamut from the venomous “Random Name Generator,” to playful on “Pickled Ginger,” and back to the plaintive, well-worn bummer he assumes on “Taste the Ceiling.”

Of course, calling these songs tossed-off does them a disservice and speaks to Wilco’s imitable ability to craft pop gems that feel like they just ripped them raw out of their studio not five minutes before. The woozy alt-country of “The Joke Explained,” how it nails that balance between a knowing wink and self-loathing pathos with a perfectly concise, cranky guitar motif, makes one wonder how this same band could create some truly bland filler on past albums. “Where Do I Begin” combines a traditionally vulnerable acoustic melody and a painfully honest Tweedy with an outro where the guitars unfurl like frightening birds of prey and Kotche’s drums sound like an avalanche. And while the record loses a bit of steam in its last third with the syncopated combo of “Cold Slope” and “King of You” blending into each other’s angular guitar lines, it ends on just the right note. “Magnetized” is a quiet, melancholy hymn, a gentle swell of keys and backing vocals that stands in stark contrast to everything before it, that inevitable touch of guitar be damned. Its chorus and the bridge that spins out towards space is the most beautiful thing on a grimy, haphazard record that nevertheless has its own allure, unique among Wilco’s extensive catalog. It’s like Wilco is reminding us that, yeah, they can still do the gorgeous studio thing too. As a capstone for the record, it’s a fitting one. Doubt Wilco at your peril.



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user ratings (233)
3.4
great
other reviews of this album
argonaut (4)
Not Wilco's best, but a great summer album well worth your time and effort....


Comments:Add a Comment 
klap
Staff Reviewer
July 21st 2015


12265 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

download for free here: http://wilcoworld.net/new-album-star-wars-available-now/



"Where Do I Begin" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfJfU56qgh0

Digging: Magdalena Bay - A Little Rhythm and a Wicked Feeling

idontcareaboutthis
July 21st 2015


952 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

good album



good review



thanks klap





klap
Staff Reviewer
July 21st 2015


12265 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i like it more yeah

DoofusWainwright
July 21st 2015


19991 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Album is just above average tbh. Being There had a vibe, Summerteeth had a vibe, YHF definitely had a vibe, Ghost is Born had a freaky vibe...I'm detecting less and less of that since Ghost. They have arrived in Pearl Jam territory where the albums become near indistinguishable from each other. Not awful - just safe as hell fan pleasers with two or three tunes they'll add to the live set

mryrtmrnfoxxxy
July 21st 2015


15058 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

disagree ^

theBoneyKing
July 21st 2015


18581 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Good review. Best summary.

PappyMason
July 21st 2015


5702 Comments


Great review. Still haven't got round to listening to this yet.

DoofusWainwright
July 21st 2015


19991 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Foxxxy putting Ashes of American Flags on Being There or Summerteeth would be all wrong, or placing Nothing'sever...on Ghost just wouldn't feel right.

I could switch any song here with any tune on wilco (the album) and it would make little difference to either

theBoneyKing
July 21st 2015


18581 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

^ This is the drawback here. But the tunes are still very good.

Critics keep praising Wilco for keeping up with the "experimentation" on this album, but while there are some weird noises here and slightly off-kilter (slightly) song structures, the irony is that that IS safe for Wilco.

JWT155
July 21st 2015


14514 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Excellent review as always klap, Where Do I Begin is my fav track off this so far.

barcafan21
July 21st 2015


2796 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

lovely review, fun album

Digging: Phoebe Bridgers - Stranger In The Alps

klap
Staff Reviewer
July 21st 2015


12265 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Where Do I Begin is the best



doofus i can see that criticism with sky blue sky or even the self-titled but this one has a very distinctive vibe. most distinct since a ghost is born tbh

DoofusWainwright
July 21st 2015


19991 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Klap - I really can't hear that, the whole second half of this could swap with the second half of wilco (the album) and there'd be no issue and little variance in quality

ciregno
July 21st 2015


475 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I wish there was a song similar to Art of Almost on this.

IrrationalAnimal
July 22nd 2015


80 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

great review friend, excellent and concise and comprehensive just how ya boi likes it

Tunaboy45
July 22nd 2015


17009 Comments


I've got a bad feeling about this

Tunaboy45
July 22nd 2015


17009 Comments


another klaptastic review from the klapmeister

theBoneyKing
July 22nd 2015


18581 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I had a bed feeling too but I was pleasantly surprised.

ILoveRadiohead
July 22nd 2015


46 Comments


i had a bed and i slept in it ,)

theBoneyKing
July 23rd 2015


18581 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

"You Satellite" is growing on me, but it feels really out of place on the album, both for its length and its style.



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