Free Album review-Star Wars by Wilco


Preface by Dan-O

I hold accountability for everything published on freemusicempire. That editorial responsibility means that any guest blogger has to be 100% dependable. Not a critic (although he has written as a reviewer) who is funny and good at diagraming how something fits in the narrative. I need an artist who knows what it is like to struggle, fight and fail at what you love; knows what it’s like starting over after that. Kyle Gervais has been making music for a long time. He was in the band Cosades. He was in the band Grand Hotel. Now he is running KGFREEZE and dropping a new album within the month (check for updates on when that album drops). Kyle lives and breathes as much music as he can, so he was the perfect guy to tackle a band I checked out on a while ago. I went to Kyle and said “I know this is interesting but I don’t know enough about Wilco to know if this is a new direction.” Kyle stepped up and put it in context. Now read that.

Free Album review-Star Wars by Wilco

by Kyle Gervais

Wilco will never make an album better than A Ghost is Born.

This is how I felt up until the surprise release of Star Wars. It’s not that it’s a better album (it isn’t) but it provides me with, and I’m sure this is no coincidence, a new hope.

My introduction to Wilco, like a lot of people, was Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and while I consider it, as well as plenty of Summer Teeth and Being There, to be utterly solid, Ghost blew my mind. It was a dynamic record, with the loud moments screeching and the quiet parts begging you to listen closer. It was dark. It was weird. It had 12 minutes of droning synth just to payoff with a warped pop song. As most know, it was also made while Jeff Tweedy was going through an addiction to painkillers.

So when the man got healthy and the band released Sky Blue Sky, a lot of fans breathed a sigh of relief while I felt a little frustration (though you really can’t beat “Impossible Germany”). Where were risks, the lack of restraint? Would they return?

While The Whole Love had moments that gave me hope, it also kept the proceedings relatively clean. Star Wars, on the other hand, is fairly off the rails, but only in the best of ways. It may be due to the time spent playing with his son Spencer in family offshoot Tweedy, it may be the lack of pressure in releasing another record on your own label, or knowing that it would be released out of nowhere. Vibe-wise, Wilco (The Album) is the closest comparison but only in the sense that the band is having fun. This time around though, it’s fun AND freaky (and way, way better), more in step with Tweedy and Kotche’s Loose Fur records than anything previously released under the official Wilco moniker.

Album intro “EKG” lets you know that the record is going to be a little more loose with it’s noisy changes, but things really kick into high gear with “Random Name Generator”. Beginning with a riff that sounds like a Beatles goof, the song grooves it’s way to harmonized guitar heaven. While “You Satellite,” the longest track here, loses a bit of steam by mostly just adding layers to one idea, the atmosphere built is quite impressive and it’s sure to be a new live staple. It also makes “Taste The Ceiling” that much more effective despite the bizarre similarities to the Eagles “Take It Easy”. It’s also hard to deny the funk of “Cold Slope” or how “Magnetized” takes all of the off the wall ideas of the previous ten tracks and ties the record together with a nice bow.

Though it’s a little too rough around the edges to seriously compare with the more Official releases in the Wilco discography, that’s also what makes it so special. It’s their pared down version of The Basement Tapes – quite possibly glorified demos that also happen to be some of the best material in their catalog. It sounds effortless and filled with ideas and directions that they have only just realized are possible. There’s a feeling of “Why not?!” in the performances and the production and it’s addictive and exciting.

With a free, 34-minute surprise album, Wilco brought me from a fair weather listener who’d tolerate whatever they’d released to a fan, very excited for what comes next.

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