Wilco, ‘The Whole Love’ (dBpm)
Twelve years ago, Jeff Tweedy sang, “I dreamt about killing you again last night, and it felt all right to me.” Now it’s, “You won’t set the kids on fire / Oh, but I might.” Ideally, he’s speaking to the same person. Whoever has been dismissing Wilco as “dad rock” must have pretty complicated relationships with their fathers. Maybe there was a sense, with 2007’s postaddiction comedown Sky Blue Sky and 2009’s self-consciously cheeky Wilco (The Album), that these guys were settling into middle age with a sigh and a wink. Or maybe the fact that they’d learned to do more than one thing well somehow suggested MOR pandering. In any event, The Whole Love feels more of a piece with 1999’s Summerteeth, the caustic pop opus on which Tweedy sped away from alt-country (or y’allternative, No Depression, whatever) in a car far sleeker (and blacker) than the one Hank Williams supposedly died in.
Amiably skronky, seven-minute kitchen-sink opener “Art of Almost” aside, there is a concerted effort to mothball the experimental tangents of recent years in favor of laconic twang, organ-driven garage pop, and tempered balladry. This is not to say there aren’t moments of dissonance — ?”I kill my memories with a cheap disease,” goes the psych-lite lament “Sunloathe” — but now Tweedy’s showing off his journal, not his record collection. Dad’s never cooler than when he’s not trying to be.