October 1, 2009

Wilco [Nonesuch]


John Stirratt is one lucky dude. It’s not that he’s undeserving—on the contrary, Stirratt’s string of recordings with Wilco have threads of sheer brilliance, where the bassist’s tone, time, and taste tie the whole band together. I just have one gripe: as singer/songwriter Jeff Tweedy’s partner since the early days, he seems to have a deathgrip on one of the coolest gigs in rock, and it doesn’t seem fair to the rest of us. First, there are the songs: spacious soundscapes where Stirratt can step out and strut his stuff, or lay back and let his uber-talented bandmates take the lead. Then there’s the gear. Stirratt has scored some of the sweetest vintage rigs and basses around. The man has all this, and without the headaches of having a high profile like Sting or Paul McCartney.

There’s nothing groundbreaking about Wilco’s new self-titled release. In truth, the band’s latest is essentially what I’ve come to expect: really, really good music. On first listening, Wilco lacks the urgency and attitude of the band’s early efforts. But if the last few Wilco records are any indication, this will be one that gets better after repeated listenings. But back to the issue at hand—John, maybe it’s time to pass the torch and give another bass brother a turn. You know how to reach me.

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