Al.Ducts Posted October 3, 2019 Share Posted October 3, 2019 Hey all, with OTJ floating out there now (and officially arriving on Friday), I'd figured we might as well kick off some reactions.I've been posting on here since my freshman year of college (2008), and while many of you have been following the band for much longer, you still have to admit that a lot has happened in Wilcoworld over the last decade. Not to get all apocryphal on your asses, but I think we can all agree that tales of Wilco’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. I haven’t been on here as much as I was in the heady days of tracking down and downloading every taper-recorded set I could find, but this seems as good a time as any to dive back in. I have listened to OTJ a couple times through now, bought tickets to one of the St. Paul shows, and I am, in general, feeling more fizzed-up on the band than I have in a long while. Before breaking down my thoughts on the record, I wanted to provide a little insight into my fan boi history. 100% fine to scroll to the last paragraph though, if you DGAF. I know the impulse to judge new Wilco releases against their past output can be a frustrating and broadly pointless exercise, but I think that building and sharing some sort of personal context in this way can be helpful in explaining our relationship to the music over time. The first new record cycle I was able to experience as a dyed-in-the-wool Wilco Head was (the album). I appreciated that collection for what it was, but frankly I could never fully shake the tiny, shadow-feeling of having to qualify my enjoyment of the new thing against what came before. I could make logical sense of this feeling pretty easily with what I understand about youth, nostalgia, etc. and I have more-or-less approached every album since with that same attitude: “This is Wilco. My favorite band. They have a new record out, and I’m going to like most of it quite a bit.” With the benefit of hindsight though, I think it's fair to say that Wilco (the album) represents the start of a later-era for the band. This period has had some great songs, and a few stinkers, but I think is fairly understood to be a period of relatively steady, if unremarkable releases. And honestly? That’s fine! But if I’m being completely honest, I have really really really been waiting for a Wilco record that feels like it approaches the “essential”-ness of of the BT-SBS era. The build-up/rollout of OTJ has definitely set the table for something that feels a little more “important” than the past couple records, and I know this idea is something JT has loosely alluded to in interviews as being sort-of intentional. Now, let me just say — I’m not *sure* OTJ reaches those heights…but it’s pretty fucking exciting to not be sure about that. Welcome to the #NewEra folks. I don’t know if it’s the power of persuasion at play, but listening to this certainly feels like we are walking onto more hallowed musical ground than anything since, maybe, AGIB? At the very least, I think it's deserving of the "best in years" that some publications have slapped onto their reviews. The studio really seems to have been brought in as an essential instrument again, and the architecture of this record finds unique and rewarding sonic fingerprints smudging the corners of nearly every song. This being the case, my initial impulse is not to highlight any songs in particular, but rather the record as a whole - which speaks to the quality of the thing, I think. With OTJ, I don’t feel there’s any reason to look for consolation prizes. Many have written about this at length, but big blocks of bass-drum-thump and snare-crack really push this record front to back. Muscular, visceral, hypnotic. It's relentless. If Glenn’s drumming is the huge, brutalist hospital building, then the rest of the band acts as surgeons, slicing and building simple folk songs into something altogether more bewitching. Instead of honking organs, and glammed-up guitar riffs, we get something more subtle, and dare-I-say, tasteful. There is gently rumbling bass, chirping and burping electronics, fingers scraping over strings, yawning feedback, and whimsical piano and guitar accents. It’s a record that’s gentle without being slight and patient without being slow. We do get a little proper guitar freakout and it’s dropped in a great spot, sequence-wise. Would I like just *a little* more guitar tangle & skronk? Sure. Of course I would. But situated as it is here, the moment is brief and deeply satisfying. Lastly, it’s clear at this point that JT has found an approach to vocal performance that sits more comfortably with him at this stage. We know this. Call it a world-weary sigh if you want. On OTJ, it still sits in a fairly reserved space, but I found the performances to be a bit more lively than the near-whisper/talk that can be found on a couple of songs on Schmilco-Warm-Warmer. So while some of the bark has faded, I can report that the bite is still very much intact here. Okay then. Everyone will hear it Friday. I’m sure I’ll have more to say with later listens (esp. w/ full access to the lyrics), and I’m excited to see what people think! Quote Link to post Share on other sites
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