235

Wilco: Sky Blue Sky

Doug Collette By

Sign in to view read count
Wilco: Sky Blue Sky Wilco's Sky Blue Sky belies the stark black and white of its graphics. It's music of pastels, seemingly designed to lull the listener into a false sense of security.

Consider the fact it was recorded with the lineup of the band including guitarist extraordinaire Nels Cline, who brought so much expansive texture to the sextet's tours since joining in 2004. "Shake It Off reminds why he is such an integral member of the group. Yet for the most part he, like the rest of this road-tested unit, becomes faceless on this CD for its duration, sublimated to mere accompaniment for Wilco front man and founder Jeff Tweedy

The one-time co-leader of alternative country pioneers Uncle Tupelo (side-by-side with the brilliant leader of Son Volt, Jay Farrar) writes lyrics such as those on "What Light, containing alternately feel-good aphorisms and almost terminally introspective insights, the sum of which are anything but the universal likes with which a listener might identify. Always somewhat insular, Tweedy now seems never to look outside himself and when he does on "Please Be Patent with Me " or especially "You Are My Face," all he sees is a reflection. A marked exception is this title song, which pivots on an irony rife with latent violence.

Tweedy's main asset has now become his voice. The way he sings is tremendously affecting as he sounds almost childlike in his vulnerability. How much more affecting would his vocals be, though, if more often they were contrasted with the instrumental work around him, which might allow the listener to reflect on what's just been sung. "Either Way is a prime example, especially as Karen Waltuch's viola and violin—bookending the CD and appearing less prominently through the conclusion of "On and On and On—would lend itself to such an effect.

Sky Blue Sky is nevertheless deceptively insinuating, almost intoxicating to listen to. Its impeccable sound quality alone is worth doting on, as the individual instruments resonate off each other beautifully. And the arrangements of tracks such as "Shake It Off (a concession to visionary percussionist Glenn Kotche?) and "Hate It Here remind of nothing so much as latter-period Beatles. The halting time stops, prominent piano work and, again, Cline's eccentric guitar flourishes, as blended on "Side With the Seeds, aren't exactly derivative of the British icons circa Abbey Road (Capitol, 1969), but the influence is unmistakably there.

It's a facet of Wilco's collective personality all the more attractive for a generation of listeners twice removed or more from direct experience of that pop mega-phenomenon. Right now Tweedy sounds a combination of Lennon (in his sloganeering self-help solo days) and McCartney (the artful tunesmith with little if anything to say other than how he turns a melodic phrase). Consequently, Sky Blue Sky becomes the first Wilco album that sounds too careful for its own good.


Track Listing: Either Way; You Are My Face; Impossible Germany; Sky Blue Sky; Side with the Seeds; Shake It Off; Please Be Patient With Me; Hate It Here: Leave Me (Like You Found Me); Walken; What Light; On and On and On.

Personnel: Jeff Tweedy; vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, electric piano, acoustic 12-string; John Stirrat: bass, vocals, 8-string bass, background vocals; Glenn Kotche: drums, percussion, glockenspiel; Mikael Jorgenson: piano, Hammond A100 organ, Hammond B3 organ, Wurlitzer; Nels Cline: electric guitar, electric 12-string guitar, loops, lap steel; Pat Sansone: Hammond A100 organ, acoustic guitar, Chamberlin, Mellotron, electric guitar, Wurlitzer, piano, background vocals; Jim O'Rourke: percussion, acoustic guitar, feedback; Karen Waltuch: viola, violin.

Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Nonesuch Records | Style: Jam Band


Shop

More Articles

Read Fellowship CD/LP/Track Review Fellowship
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 22, 2017
Read E.S.T. Symphony CD/LP/Track Review E.S.T. Symphony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 22, 2017
Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 22, 2017
Read The Invariant CD/LP/Track Review The Invariant
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 22, 2017
Read Akua's Dance CD/LP/Track Review Akua's Dance
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Daylight Ghosts CD/LP/Track Review Daylight Ghosts
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 21, 2017
Read "In Love With" CD/LP/Track Review In Love With
by Eyal Hareuveni
Published: July 25, 2016
Read "San Ygnacio" CD/LP/Track Review San Ygnacio
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 8, 2016
Read "Free for One" CD/LP/Track Review Free for One
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 31, 2016
Read "At This Time..." CD/LP/Track Review At This Time...
by Budd Kopman
Published: May 11, 2016
Read "Binary" CD/LP/Track Review Binary
by Dave Wayne
Published: January 5, 2017
Read "Rising Colossus" CD/LP/Track Review Rising Colossus
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 28, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!