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Thursday
Sep082016

WILCO - Schmilco

Harry Nilsson's Nilsson Schmilsson was a career-defining, Grammy-winning, style-straddling bonafide classic pop LP that sounds as masterful today as it did in 1971. Wilco's latest nods towards that record in its title, though its sights are set at more modest level. Introspective and cagey, Tweedy & co. leave most of the hooks in the box, but the interplay between members is fascinating to follow and more subtle than ever (even firecracker guitarist Nels Cline plays it pretty cool). For those who liked the idea of Sky Blue Sky's chill vibe but found that record too saccharine and by-the-numbers, Schmilco is your jam. The title suggests a shrug, but the album's hard-won obsrvations are found everywhere.

"That’s exactly what Jeff Tweedy and his long-running creative juggernaut Wilco have done on their tenth album, Schmilco, a record that they’ve described as “joyously negative.” As Editor-in-Chief Michael Roffman pointed out in our cover story on the LP, it’s “a description that should frustrate every music critic out there looking for the perfect signifier.” He’s right. It is frustrating to search for cynicism and discontent in an album that finds the band sounding more at ease than … well, ever. If Tweedy has so much to be crabby about, then why the hell does he sound so relaxed?

Because those two states of mind aren’t mutually exclusive. The latter might even be dependent on the former, and Schmilco recognizes that from the get-go. On opener “Normal American Kids”, Tweedy reflects on how carefree his younger days were, even though he resented the positivity of his peers while growing up. Now that he’s older and has witnessed or experienced events actually worth fretting about — addiction, sick relatives, doomsday politics, the works — he realizes the cruel joke of his own adolescent misanthropy: So many of us spend the easiest times of our lives being consumed with dread when the worst is yet to come. And when the worst does come at an older age, sometimes we’re better equipped to deal with it than in the past — if we’re honest about our own darkness, that is. “Normal American Kids” is not a song about wasted romance or happiness, but wasted worrying. Think of it as a gleefully grotesque reversal to “Heavy Metal Drummer” and all its halcyon sentimentality." - Consequence of Sound

 

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