It’s like Festivus in May. Wilco released a new album, Sky Blue Sky, and now we’re going to air some grievances. I didn’t want it to come to this, but with a flat (some may say boring) release, I feel the need to list the ways in which Tweedy & Co. have disappointed me.
1. Who’s Ready For Some Mid-Tempo Rockers? One of the most endearing moments on the two disc live set, Kicking Television, comes before “Jesus, Etc,” when Jeff Tweedy is joking with the crowd and says, “Let’s get this party with some mid-tempo rock.” Man, I’d give a toe for more mid-tempo rock on Sky Blue Sky. The tempo on this album drrrrraaaaaaaaags. It ranges from slow to slow with brief interludes of slow-to-mid tempo.
2. The Myth of The Grower I’ve read plenty of reviews where Sky Blue Sky is labeled a grower — an album that isn’t instantly gratifying, but one that gets more rewarding with additional listens. Now, admittedly, as I’ve spent more time with this disc over the past week, I have started to enjoy it more. Yet, I can’t escape the thought that this album is a rationalizer, and not a grower — the more time I spend listening to Sky Blue Sky the more time I’m able to spend rationalizing with myself that maybe, this isn’t so bad. I can pick moments like the dueling guitars at the end of “Impossible Germany” and say, “Look here, this isn’t boring, there’s two guitars and they’re doing this neat little jam.”
3. Smooth Jazz and The Doctor’s Office I’m sure a lot of you, like me, have music in your collection tailored to specific moods, seasons, or activities. There’s summer music, winter music, happy and sad, driving around town, doing the dishes, or just plain listening music. When I came up with times when I’d want to listen to Sky Blue Sky and my list ended up including such stirring moments like sitting in the doctor’s office, sleeping, and spending a lazy afternoon in a hammock sleeping. Part of the problem here is that even when Wilco attempt to cut loose, as during the instrumental breaks during “Walken” and “Impossible Germany” they don’t ever cut loose. The jams are too controlled. There’s no sense of dynamics. How about some loud/soft/loud? Can we show some impulsiveness and spontaneity?
4. Words That Shouldn’t Be Associated With Wilco Albums In Addition To The Eagles and Steely Dan I’m going to give you two lists of adjectives. Here’s the first list: controlled, reserved, careful, muted, hushed, intricate, solemn, and mellow. Here’s a second list: adventurous, daring, rowdy, ragged, important, surprising, catchy, loose, and challenging. List one includes words that apply to parts of Wilco’s catalog and Sky Blue Sky. The second list includes words that I’d use to describe Wilco in the past that don’t apply to Sky Blue Sky. I like the second list better.
While I am disappointed with Wilco, it is Festivus in May. We’ve aired our grievances, and now we can move on and do more exciting things like listen to the live version of “Spiders/Kidsmoke,” and maybe some feats of strength.