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Wilco - Cruel Country - New Album


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I'm having a complicated reaction to this album that seems to be rooted in competing sensors and expectations. Most of all, I respond to Wilco's multifaceted muse; I love both chaotic and folksy

So, thoughts on the album - it's a bit on the long side:   I'll be upfront and say that I'm simply thankful for Cruel Country because it's given us "Country Song Upside Down". When this land

It's hard to express how deeply I love this new album and can't wait to hear it at Solid Sound. I've been hoping Wilco would do a "country" album for a long time, but the direction of the past three m

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1 hour ago, KevinG said:

when will we learn about the vinyl release.  thats what i want to know

 

 

It might take a while.

 

Jack White recently made a video plea to the three major record companies to make their own vinyl pressing plants again because of the huge uptick in vinyl sales.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpNj60awEiM

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4 hours ago, chisoxjtrain said:

Lyrics and credits are available:

 

https://wilcoworld.net/music/cruel-country/

Thank you for posting this! 
 

I took a brief look at the lyrics to see if anything else was performed on The Tweedy Show. I think “It’s Hard To Get Over Being Used” is The Plains. That one was performed a couple of times, most notably on one of the tour bus episodes. 
 

I’m also looking forward to some French horn on a few of the new tunes. 

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I did a superficial listen. I wasn't wild about the record. I'll have to give it a few more listens & pay more attention. First Wilco record where I've said something like that, going back to the first one. I got an advance copy of that one & Being There before they were out & have been a fan since. Will be interesting to see what they do live on the next tour. Hopefully it's not all like the new record. Caveat: I'm not a huge country fan aside from Merle Haggard & Gram Parsons.

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It's hard to express how deeply I love this new album and can't wait to hear it at Solid Sound. I've been hoping Wilco would do a "country" album for a long time, but the direction of the past three made it seem that ship had sailed. (No dis there, I love SW, Schmilco and OTJ, and think they are as good as any Wilco have made.) Not sure what I thought a Wilco country album would be, probably "Being There" drenched in Sneaky Pete pedal steel and Bakersfield guitars turned up to 11. But it isn’t "Sweetheart of the Rodeo" or "The Gilded Palace of Sin," it's Wilco country. NOT what gets played on contemporary country radio. (Maybe a country station that played Townes Van Zandt, John Prine, and Neil Young's rendition of "Oh, Lonesome Me," if such ever existed.) And it’s as unpredictable and exceptional as everything they do. I hear echoes of David Crosby’s “If Only I Could Remember My Name” and Jerry Garcia’s first solo album. Lovely piano, lilting guitars, beautiful harmonizing background vocals. Touches of classic C&W arrangement blended with OTJ’s atmospherics. Jeff Tweedy’s lyrics can sound intimately personal or rousingly communal, direct or abstract, but always incisive, and his singing so full of emotion. The band rises to the subject matter, creating on songs like “Hints” and “A Lifetime to Find,” classics on par with the great artists who have inspired them. At 21 songs, the length obscures the album’s dynamic range—some nags will inevitably trot out the “would be better as a single album” complaint (heard that about the latest Big Thief record, which I love). But with each listen, the “Cruel Country” songs that didn’t jump out at first grow on me more, and I bet many will end up my favorites. I wasn’t sure Wilco could still surprise me, but of course, here they are, once again confounding expectations by diligently following their creative instincts. And, to quote Robert Christgau’s assessment of “Europe ’72,” I've still got my card and it ain't a joker.

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On 5/22/2022 at 12:25 AM, Brian F. said:

The vocals on "I Am My Mother" sound like Bob Dylan.

 

Yes! I said the same to my wife yesterday while listening in the car.

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I'm having a complicated reaction to this album that seems to be rooted in competing sensors and expectations.

Most of all, I respond to Wilco's multifaceted muse; I love both chaotic and folksy Wilco, so I'm prepared to follow the band wherever it wants to take me. Still, let me confess that after years of virus and dreary politics, and two brilliant yet relatively pensive albums, what I most wanted from new Wilco was a return to robust rock. And given Jeff's long months playing acoustic versions of his songs on the Tweedy Show, and his expressed desire to emerge from lockdown ready to bring audiences to their feet in communal release, I anticipated that the band's next album would, indeed, contain at least a few helpings of energetic, rousing rock.

Quite the opposite, though, happens on Cruel Country, a fact which disappoints me to a degree. But expectations are often an arbitrary poison, and I learned a long time ago that the best way to meet an artist is on their own terms: Show me what you have, and I'll try to receive you there. While the new album doesn't match my hopes and expectations, it does, indeed, strike my ears as a majestic achievement. What it wants to be, it is, and beautifully so. I think I love this chiseled jewel, at least as much as one can after only a few listens. But I still have that nagging sensation that it isn't quite what I wanted (needed?) at this moment.

Let me discuss "Hints" as a way to illustrate this dynamic. That song is among my favorite tunes that Jeff played on the Tweedy Show. I've listened to it countless times in the intervening months, and my favorite sonic element has been the driving, punchy drum fill. In my head, I have eagerly anticipated the full band version, envisioning how that song, and that drum fill in particular, could be sturdy, crashing, edgy. But what we get on Cruel Country is a version that barely maintains that drum fill--it nearly vanishes in the mix. This is not a criticism. My head and heart both tell me that everything about the album version of "Hints" works; it hits all the right artistic sensors for me. But there's a sliver of that same heart that longs for the imagined "Hints" that exists only in my head.

Anyway, I don't have much point here other than to say that I'm fascinated by how my own feelings and baggage are impacting the way I'm initially hearing this album, and I'm curious about whether others are navigating similarly paradoxical responses.

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^ It's really something to have a relationship with an artist that puts out such high quality material for so many years. Like, "Don't ask me about the new Wilco unless you have a couple minutes." I wish I could engage with more things at the same level, but on Friday I'm sure I'll be just as awash in my expectations and the arc of these guys' work.

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I'm with Beltmann.  Jeff mentioned in Esquire they had initially been working on an "art pop" record before shelving it (unfinished) because they got excited by the idea of making a country album. The first idea sounded a lot more fun and interesting to me, and that charity single "Tell Your Friends" they released in 2020, while not super innovative maybe, seemed to be pointing in the direction of a bigger, not stripped-down, sound. But then we got something not far afield from the Tweedy solo albums.

 

I'm sure if I don't listen to it for a few weeks, once I get over my expectations, I'll appreciate it more, but also hope we get that art pop album next!

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I've barely had time to scratch the surface of this one, and I always need time to let an album with any depth (any Wilco album for instance) really percolate thru my brain and heart. So far all I can say is that there are some lyrics and melodies here that I'm already captivated by. 

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6 hours ago, Beltmann said:

I'm having a complicated reaction to this album that seems to be rooted in competing sensors and expectations.

 

I echo your sentiments - though of course you state them so much better than I would. I too had previously expressed a desire for something more upbeat a few times, going back to over a year ago. Hoping that corresponds to the next one they release.

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12 hours ago, Beltmann said:

I'm having a complicated reaction to this album that seems to be rooted in competing sensors and expectations.

 ... and his expressed desire to emerge from lockdown ready to bring audiences to their feet in communal release, I anticipated that the band's next album would, indeed, contain at least a few helpings of energetic, rousing rock.
 

 

Same here.  The new one does have its musically upbeat moments (Falling Apart for example), albeit with cowboy boots this time.  And some fabulous stories (Story to Tell, Lifetime to Find, Hearts Hard to Find) to be sure.  But storyteller Jeff was more than plentiful with the past 3 solo records.  This one will have to be a grower for sure, and I'll leave it at that for now.

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Wilco has given me so much fantastic music - a soundtrack to life over the past ~30 years. They don't owe me an art-pop record or a follow up to Star Wars or Ghost is Born, as much as that's what I'd love to get. 
 

I find some beautiful moments on this new record  - They could blow out the second half of Many Worlds into a 45 minute jam and I'd love every moment. Overall, however, the record feels pleasant and comfortable. Extremely well written, interesting and enjoyable, but pleasant. And pleasant isn't the sound I'm looking for from Wilco.

But like I said, they don't owe me a less pleasant record. I'll continue going to shows, buying records and appreciating what they do. And I'll continue digesting this record. And I'll continue to hope the next record is the art-pop record they shelved!

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I've listened to it a few times with nowhere near as much attention as I'd like to give. It's like a late period Dylan or Neil Young record. They've long since gone past owing me anything, and pretty much anything they release I'll give some attention to.

 

This isn't hugely different from what Jeff was doing with Tweedy and his solo records. I don't hear the band like I did on Ode To Joy, or TWL, or similar. That's ok, I am absolutely fine with artists burning through their pandemic material whichever way they see fit. It's conflicted and slightly weird and I'll probably understand it properly in a few years. For now though, I like the sound of Wilco being this simple. I'm not sure I'm ready to go somewhere else yet myself.

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On 5/22/2022 at 11:16 AM, chuckrh said:

I did a superficial listen. I wasn't wild about the record. I'll have to give it a few more listens & pay more attention. First Wilco record where I've said something like that, going back to the first one. I got an advance copy of that one & Being There before they were out & have been a fan since. Will be interesting to see what they do live on the next tour. Hopefully it's not all like the new record. Caveat: I'm not a huge country fan aside from Merle Haggard & Gram Parsons.

 

Putting the pieces together from the reviews I've read, I can tell this is gonna be another disappointing offering for me. I had high hopes based on the first song released and the description of the album as a "country" album, but I fear this will be another one I probably won't think about in a few months (along with Star Wars, Schmilco, and Ode to Joy). That saddens me.

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10 minutes ago, Boss_Tweedy said:

 

Putting the pieces together from the reviews I've read, I can tell this is gonna be another disappointing offering for me. I had high hopes based on the first song released and the description of the album as a "country" album, but I fear this will be another one I probably won't think about in a few months (along with Star Wars, Schmilco, and Ode to Joy). That saddens me.

Unfortunately, this is my impression based on media reviews and the few people who have been brave enough on the fan pages to speak in less than raving terms.  All the descriptions indicate it will be, to my taste, another pretty bland record.  That’ll make three in a row.

 

I very much want to be proven wrong and will give it an honest chance to win me over.

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On 5/23/2022 at 8:50 PM, Freedy said:

I'm with Beltmann.  Jeff mentioned in Esquire they had initially been working on an "art pop" record before shelving it (unfinished) because they got excited by the idea of making a country album. The first idea sounded a lot more fun and interesting to me, and that charity single "Tell Your Friends" they released in 2020, while not super innovative maybe, seemed to be pointing in the direction of a bigger, not stripped-down, sound. But then we got something not far afield from the Tweedy solo albums.

 

I'm sure if I don't listen to it for a few weeks, once I get over my expectations, I'll appreciate it more, but also hope we get that art pop album next!

I'd love an art pop record. Can you say "Summerteeth"? That was the first Wilco record I freaked out on. I liked the first 2 quite a bit but "Summerteeth" totally blew me away. I always say that it's their Brian Wilson record. Still love it. Probably my favorite Wilco record, followed by YHF & AGIB. That's not to say I don't like the other ones. They all have at least some good stuff. There's a few I like on the new one but maybe it could've used a bit of editing.

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2 hours ago, Boss_Tweedy said:

 

Putting the pieces together from the reviews I've read, I can tell this is gonna be another disappointing offering for me. I had high hopes based on the first song released and the description of the album as a "country" album, but I fear this will be another one I probably won't think about in a few months (along with Star Wars, Schmilco, and Ode to Joy). That saddens me.

 

So you listened to some of the music and liked it. But reading about the music you haven't heard leads you to determine you won't like songs you haven't heard and that makes you feel sad.

 

Preemptive disappointment is very 21st century.

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7 minutes ago, lost highway said:

 

So you listened to some of the music and liked it. But reading about the music you haven't heard leads you to determine you won't like songs you haven't heard and that makes you feel sad.

 

Preemptive disappointment is very 21st century.

 

Hey, I'll be happy to be wrong. I thought it was OK to post critical and negative feelings/opinions here unlike the Facebook group. Guess I was wrong. 

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1 hour ago, Boss_Tweedy said:

 

Hey, I'll be happy to be wrong. I thought it was OK to post critical and negative feelings/opinions here unlike the Facebook group. Guess I was wrong. 

 

Come on now, it's okay. I won't get mad at you. I just thought your bummer sounded potentially avoidable.

 

 

 

 

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I enjoy Cruel Country well enough, but it is not scratching my itch for a diverse, propulsive record that clearly utilizes the skills of all six guys. I've been wanting another Whole Love-type record since Schmilco hit. I want some up-tempo tracks and a little sprinkled-in weirdness; this one, as good as it is, continues the tempos and musicality of the Warm/Love is the King series.

 

It's good, it's my favorite band, I'll like it, but I still want that other one. 

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I haven't listened to the album all the way through yet, just songs here and there, so I will reserve a more final analysis for midnight tonight when I go Cruel Country front to back with good quality headphones. But I will say that what I've heard thus far is exactly what I expected: excellent songwriting, fantastic musicianship, and a true Wilco (today's Wilco) country record with the requisite twang, plus a couple 'what the fuck was that?' moments to keep folks on their toes. 

 

I will also say I am a bit underwhelmed (at this point) by the album as well, and I think both points of view can be true. For me, at this point, I view Wilco like how I view Lebron James: the guy can still bring it for 55 games a season, he's still in amazing shape, and he has games where he can rip the roof of an arena. But is he the Lebron James of 2012? No. He's won four NBA Titles now, he's cemented his place and legacy, and he's in a different stage of his career. 

 

I think the same goes for Wilco right now. They're still one of America's most important bands. They're still my favorite band of all time. But they're not the Wilco of years ago. They're in a different stage of their career. They're likely a little bit passed their prime. And that's OK. Because if this is how post-prime Wilco sounds, who's gonna say, "No thanks, I'll pass."   

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14 hours ago, Boss_Tweedy said:

 

Hey, I'll be happy to be wrong. I thought it was OK to post critical and negative feelings/opinions here unlike the Facebook group. Guess I was wrong. 

 

It's fine to disagree here...just keep it civil and allow for different opinions!

And it's remarkably easy to misunderstand each other's meanings in text messages, so try not to make assumptions about each other.

--Thanks, the management

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