Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Two Friends Reviewing "Wilco Schmilco" : A True Story

ME: So Wilco is now Radiohead?

HG: Hmmmm. I like the first few songs and then to me it actually sounds like they're trying to be musically annoying after that. Like a child repeating a noise til you make them stop.
I know to you that sounds like Radiohead, but to me Radiohead is searching for beauty in new sounds. Wilco sounds like they got embarrassed at how sweet and pretty the album was starting to turn out and Tweedy didn't like that. 

ME: That's a cool take. I tuned out by track 4 and took it off by track 6. Somewhere in the middle of track 5, I considered breaking it over my knee. Or just leaving it on, but finding a new apartment.
HG:  Rolling Stone called new Wilco "their most pastoral album in years."
Conclusion: RS didn't listen past track 4 either. 

ME: Ha. "Sukierae," "Star Wars,"  "Schmilco." That's a whole lot of annoying.  Next Tweedy record will be 19 minutes of breathing and grunting, maybe the sound of him shuffling in slippers from the couch to the refrigerator, plucking a ukulele string on the way. A better title for the record would have been "Narcolepsy Schnarcolepsy.
HG: Is the title maybe referring to how the record starts out like their best and then gradually obliterates everything I liked about Wilco? 

ME: I just meant it puts me to sleep.

HG:  No I meant their actual title "Schmilco!" I got what you were saying. Their album doesn't put me to sleep. There seems to be enough annoying noise in it that it could instead be an alarm clock at times. And yet I still love Wilco. Like if Neil Young had put out an album called "I've Got Your Harvest, Right Here," and it was "Weld" or "Trans." I also loved "Narcolepsy Schnarcolepsy," by the way. I just think I couldn't sleep to it. I think it's anti-melodic at points and the poundingly repetitive riffs feel like alarms to me. And "Common Sense" has a drone in it so annoying it could strike fear over half of Syria.

ME: I think that's when I took it off and put the record away for good. That song. I hid it. I put away in the letter "O." Well maybe my title works because the band is sleeping through it. I have this vision of Tweedy hiring somebody to help him hold his pick. That's how lazy it sounds. I was thinking of the Perry Como skit from SCTV, with Eugene Levy lying in bed and the mic propped on the pillow. That's it! The new Wilco: It's like Perry Como meets Neu!
HG: Ha! Nailed it. I feel like it gets better again once you get to track 8, "Quarters."  But I really hoped after "Star Wars" they'd make a non-throwaway record. Doesn't Woody Guthrie have any more boxes?
ME: Yeah, I'll trust ya about getting to track 8. 


Mark said...

I'm not a big Wilco fan, but I've always liked Wilco albums, and especially their YANKEE HOTEL FOXTROT and KICKING TELEVISION. The last two tracks on the SCHMILCO album are ... not bad, but the album as a whole is a snooze. And yes, "pastoral" is a term used when someone hasn't actually listened to a whole album. What's even funnier is getting listeners to describe what they hear when listening to Frank Ocean's BLOND. I think it's beautiful, and very pop as in pop music, though honestly I have no idea what Ocean's describing or talking about. There's a review in the current New Yorker of Blond that's unintentionally hilarious, and includes this gem. " ... instead of dismissing distraction he surrenders to it, content to discover the ambient beauty that comes from grazing all of life’s surfaces." The first thing that came to mind after listening to Blond was Marvin Gaye's WHAT'S GOING ON, though Blond could better be referred to as NOTHING'S GOING ON.

Anonymous said...

well, they're definitely not U2.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I'm no fan of Wilco. I've listened to "Summerteeth" about 5 times.
There's at least one song I like.
I'm glad they exist, and I feel the same way about Radiohead.
I keep hoping they make that great album some day.

whattawino said...

This post is hysterical! I don't even want to go near the record though. I'd rather just read this piece a few more times....seriously, hahahahaha

Tumblingdice70 said...

When I saw "pastoral" in Rolling Stone, I honestly thought about buying the record, because I love certain aspects of Wilco, and I was really impressed with them when I saw them live for the first time a couple years ago. Thanks to your classic Statler and Waldorf (old men who sit in the balcony and make fun of the Muppets) style review, I realize now I would have been like Charlie Brown, in mid-air once again, cursing myself for being stupid enough to fall for the same old trick. The Radiohead comparison hits home for me, it feels like too often these days they assemble sounds with the purpose of confusion, actively avoiding cohesion.

Anonymous said...

Is that you and Henry Gross talking Wilco?
Tell him I'm a big fan


buzzbabyjesus said...

If it's Henry Gross ditto for me. "Plug Me Into Something" is an old favorite of mine.

Dr Wu said...

Easily the most entertaining review I've ever read. I'll have to give it a listen because, for me, when Wilco is 'On' they're great. But, I don't hold out much hope this time as I trust your judgement in these matters. Below is the review from Pitchfork - I'm not sure they listened to the same album. Lol!
'Wilco's 10th album is a largely acoustic affair laden with sweet melodies, autumnal production, and childhood memories that stop just short of nostalgic.'

M_Sharp said...

Nice review! I listened to the album straight through and wasn't impressed. I'll give it another shot, but I don't expect much of a change.

Wally Bangs said...

Pastoral = dull dull dull. "Normal American Kids" got me excited. Yes, it's a quiet and spare tune, but it was a personal statement not cloaked in a bunch of oblique nonsense. As an aging punk rocker (9 months older than Tweedy) I still vividly remember those feelings. Then the record ventures into the now well worn Tweedy talk sing with some occasional Krautrock baseboard trim in lieu of actual hooks. Would it kill the man to actually deliver a memorable chorus once in a while.

Northing said...

Please you two, review every release in the world this way! Harkens back to the glory days of Cristgau and Bangs: thoughtful snarkiness.