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Schmilco Impressions.

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While I am glad that Wilco has given us two albums in a one-year period, I am wondering what would have happened if these were a single album, especially knowing that the material was developed aroun the same time. In other words, what if Wilco had just released a single album that looked something like this:




Joke Explained

Random Name Generator

Pickled Ginger

Normal American Kids

If I Ever Was A Child

Cry All Day


You Satellite


Taste the Ceiling


Cold Slope

King of You


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They've done so much great work on straight-ahead (or slightly skewed) rock music, that I'm really happy they did something weirder, country-er, and quieter (while also being disquieting, off-kilter, etc.)


Also a strong set of lyrics.


It won't end up being my favorite album, but the adventurousness is welcome. For all the talk about BT being a weird country record, I've never really bought it. THIS one is the weird country record. Really enjoying it.

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It's tough to really figure it out upon my first two listens. Some real standouts & some others that require more listening, or maybe not.


Some of Jeff's best lyrics in quite a while I think, especially compared to Star Wars which I felt leaned a lot on the "phonetic transcribing" he's done a lot of since TWL.


I get why they separated Star Wars & Schmilo, both do feel a lot different but you always do wonder what could have been w/ records released so close together. IMO there is a stone cold classic 12-song record between these two & the Tweedy record that could maybe be the best one in the Wilco catalogue. Though I will never complain about having 44 Jeff songs ever, EVER.

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Cry All Day? A new Wilco classic. 


After only one listen, it's a really, really wonderful listening experience, though you do get the sense this is less of a collaborative effort and more the Tweedy show - much like Star Wars, which makes sense given what's been written about how these records were composed. That being said, as with Star Wars, there's a couple of tracks I really question/suspect multiple listens won't do much for my opinion of them - they seem hard to access for the sake of being hard to access. 


That said, more so than Star Wars at least for me, the highs on Schmilco are crazy, crazy high and the lows are pretty low. Not sure what this means yet in terms of how the record holds together. But it does prove Wilco continues to be the most forward-thinking, interesting band in America. 

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I just finished my first listen to it on vinyl...It's for sure different of any Wilco record so far...I really like it. To me it sounds like if the first Loose Fur album and the Tweedy album/project had a baby with Star Wars as the rowdy stepbrother...on the 2nd side of the lp, some of the songs had a "Crack a Smile" (a Jandek song Jeff and Spencer covered a few years ago on a tribute album) sorta vibe, which I love...its a grower thats for sure as further listens will unpeel layers and the strange melodies get stuck in your head...GREAT ALBUM possibly their best one imo.

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OK I've run it through a few times & hit tracks here & there throughout my day & night today & I've found not only plenty to love easily, but also a fascinating listening, geared well to the approach of Fall (for me at least) in that it's also deeply layered, on so many levels. I look forward to having it bloom as Autumn does it's own particular blossoming & I am incredibly excited to hear how they'll be retooling the whole show to harmonize with the vibe of this album (the physical set/backdrop for the show itself is completely stunning!!)... that should make it's impact after seeing them all the more interesting & rewarding.

While "Star Wars" was incredibly accessible & an absolute pop-rock joy filled classic... this is a more challenging ride with lots of odd twists & turns. For my long road trip this weekend I decided to toss together a comp of "Sukierae"/"Star Wars"/"Schmilco"... that meant choosing the most instantly impressive songs from the album...ended up with 9 from the Tweedy & 8 from each of the Wilco albums.

I ended up cutting out 4 "Schmico" tracks, none of which I dislike by any means- the off kilter "Common Sense", the lovely "Happiness", the lilting "We Aren't The World (Safety Girl)" & the loping "Nope"...

Those other 8 songs stand up incredibly well up against the chosen tracks from "Star Wars" (love the whole album but cut "Satellite" & "The Joke Explained") & "Sukierae" (used about half the album- "Flowering", "Honey Combed", "Summer Noon", "High As Hello", "Fake Fur Coat", "Low Key", "World Away", "Wait For Love" & "Pigeons"... and there were a few I was sad to cut, but sometimes song length figured in & I wanted a fairly equal balance, which I got... especially hurt to cut "I'll Never Know", "Nobody Dies Anymore", "I'll Sing It" & the even lengthier "Slow Love" & "Diamond Light"... the other half dozen of the half that got left behind, all have their merits but just out & out weren't making the cut here...).

I could end up totally falling in love with any of those 4 songs, but running the 8 in row that I did & then previewing them for a needle drop of sorts on each track, ended up revealing just how incredibly strong all these recent works are to my ears... as well as how much of this wild ride that is "Schmilco" is also going to be easily assimilated into the longer term set lists

I think while "Star Wars" was the easiest to quickly love & batting average wise it looks the strongest now... and "Tweedy" was the most sprawling, being a double, but by that virtue, it offers the most number of great songs just by it's sheer breadth... "Schmilco" sits somewhere in between these.. not as accessible as & instantly stunning as "Star Wars", but not as overwhelming as "Sukierae" was to take all in. I think it has more in common vibe wise with "Sukierae".

I also tend to now just view this era as the incredibly prolific time when Jeff poured himself into the process of writing & recording at an amazing pace (there is a 5th album, a single Tweedy disc, that's supposedly already in the can & ready to go next up...) in the face of the personal challenges involving Suzi's healing journey.

I love combining "Star Wars" & "Schmilco" as a real Yang/Yin double album!! I think if they'd tried to sequence it out, it would have felt more similar to the Tweedy double & releasing two double that close together is doubling up all the issues around such demanding listening. So I understand why they/he made the choice they did, but it's truly fascinating to hear just as a double album worth of those particular Wilco sessions & an, other side of the mirror, perfect companion to the Tweedy double album debut.

With a 6 hour drive to New Jersey on Saturday & a 6 hour drive back next Wednesday, I should have a pretty good feel for things by the time it actually gets released on the 9th ;)

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An OS contact of mine spontaneously forwarded the album onto me (without my promptling) so following a moment's hesitation I imported the album in itunes this evening and I'm on my second listen. I must stress that I will not be sharing the album with anyone and I certainly intend to pick up the vinyl when it lands in my local record store.


So, impressions:


This may seem like a perculiar (and probably the most obscure) reference point, but the Wilco Book tracks came immediately to mind on "Normal American Kids" and persisted through the downright odd (and fitfully beautiful) "Common Sense" right through to the final track. There's something about the close-mic'd recording approach and occasional treatments of reverb and fades that remind me of the early Ghost demoes and 'fundamentals' experiments that make up the bulk of the Wilco Book material. 


I felt that Star Wars - in spite of its racousness - was relatively restrained instrumentally, and this is also evident across Schmilco: nothing bombastic, no guitar wankery from Nels, etc. As far as I'm concerned this is a very good thing. It certainly ain't WTA or The Whole Love.


Lyrically, this is the most interesting material I've heard from Tweedy since Sky Blue Sky or Loose Fur's Born Again In The USA. I'm engaged with the lyrics just about across the entire record, which hasn't happened in a long, long time. As much as I enjoyed Star Wars, some of the lyrics were just plain lazy, nonsensical rubbish that betrayed any poetic connetation or whatever.


So that's the positives. On the negative side of things, what Schmilco lacks in spite of its consistency, restraint and occasionally strange/interesting detours is a distinct lack of hooks and tunefulness. Only "Happiness" and "Safety Girl" really grab me at this stage. 


At this very early stage it's a 3.5/5 sort of Wilco record. 

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I downloaded it. 

However, I am not going to listen until Tuesday, because that's when the listening party is.

I justified downloading it because the nearest store hosting a party is 2 hours away. I can't drive that far for the party, but I still want to hear it at the same time as folks at the party. Plus, I've purchased 3 copies of the record already, so.... 

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