Wilco: Schmilco

Score: 8/10 – Schmeight out of schmen
From its title referencing maverick singer Harry Nilsson’s 1971 album Nilsson Schmilsson to its cover art featuring a surreal Joan Cornelia comic strip of a girl dancing to its sounds while her dad electrocutes himself, Wilco are clearly having a lot of fun with Schmilco. If last year’s Star Wars sounded like a band re-energising themselves with Sonic Youth blasts of art rock, then their 10th album is a more laid back, largely acoustic, but no less playful affair.
Opener “Normal American Kids” features singer Jeff Tweedy in a nostalgic mood, remembering his days as a slacker living in the world of “bongs and jams and carpeted vans”. Throughout his surrealist wordplay remains thoughtful and vivid, as with “If I Ever was a Child”, where he imagines his past self “tied up like a boat, unbuttoned like a coat” and crying “like a windowpane”, as the gentle alt. country strum echoes Wilco’s ’96 breakthrough album Being There.
If Tweedy and Wilco seemed to lose some of their experimental fire and songwriting in their handful of albums pre-2015’s Star Wars, both elements have now been brilliantly recaptured. While unpredictable in parts – the weird, lolloping “Common Sense” sounds like Pavement playing quietly in a cupboard – there are great melodies here to pull the floating voters back in (the mournful “Happiness”, the ‘70s Lennon loveliness of “Shrug and Destroy”).
The band once labeled “The American Radiohead” are clearly back on track; it’ll be fascinating to follow them wherever they venture next. Dan Ashcroft
Like this? Try these:
Wowee Zowee
Experimental outing from Stockton, CA indie outfit.
Billy Bragg & Wilco
Mermaid Avenue
Magic reworking of lost Woodie Guthrie material.
My Morning Jacket
Evil Urges
Grammy nominated gold courtesy of beardy Kentuckians.

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