Lavin Rant: Wilco’s The Whole Love

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by Mike Lavin

7.0/10

Wilco – The Whole Love [dBpm; 2011]

What separates Wilco’s earlier releases of Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot from the latest efforts of Sky Blue Sky up to their eighth release The Whole Love? Ingenuity. The blend of alt-country and the raw yet refined experimentations make Wilco easily one of the most exciting indie acts of the early ‘00s. Critics crave another Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, while new fans are added onto with what seems to be every new record with whatever lead man Jeff Tweedy and Wilco throws at them. Honestly, Wilco can really do nothing terribly wrong, but the lack of intensive direction can be a turn off to seasoned Wilco fans.

The Whole Love starts out promising enough with the wild “Art of Almost” that has an eccentric guitar outro that might be one of Wilco’s best guitar works to date, but The Whole Love really drops up and down from there, like the trend that Wilco efforts have been doing since Sky Blue Sky. “I Might” is another definite highlight for The Whole Love and is the signature track on the album like “Wilco (The Song)” was for Wilco (The Album)”  and “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” was for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.; the killer organ hook that Wilco uses on “I Might” plunges the track into a classic Wilco tune. The rest of the album turns into mediocre alt-country mush that can be easily listened to, but lacks the vigor and approach that the world knows Wilco capable of.

From moody acoustics on “Black Moon” and “Open Mind,” to an electronic country-infused tune, “Capitol City,” The Whole Love is by far not bland in differentiating styles, but again it just sounds too contemporary. Where is the near-experimental approach we were left with on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, or the charming pop tunes on Summerteeth? Unfortunately, it’s inevitable to believe that Wilco will someday return to some “form” to appease everyone’s taste because honestly Wilco has moved on to a more traditional sound that will attract new comers yet frustrate long-time Wilco fans.

One of the more ambitious moves Wilco attempted was a 12-minute folk track that has great poetic lyricism from Jeff Tweedy with moving lines that precariously drip off one another; “Bless my mind, I miss/Being told how to live.” Those moments are rare on The Whole Love, for there seems to be barrier hiding all the ambition away with uninteresting alt-country tracks like “Open Mind” or “Sunloathe” which are just simply boring and sound so typically Wilco. It is all just so average, nothing pressingly terrible, but nothing excelling.

Wilco again follows the slightly-above mediocrity formula; two to three interesting and engaging tracks with one excellent hit track (“I Might”) and then surrounds those by bogged down tracks that simply don’t transcend to any heights Wilco has reached before. The Whole Love will simply go down as another average LP in Wilco’s discography and will be waved off as purely unimportant and a backdrop to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’s and couple of other records’ successes. Honestly, any expectation for The Whole Love were killed when Tweedy sings, “I can’t help it if I fall in love with you!” on “Dawned On Me.”