Posted on October 3rd, 2011 (1:12 pm) by Joseph Bogen

I always knew this album would arrive--the album that made me stop caring about Wilco. The Whole Love is that album. Maybe that claim is a bit unfair to this album. I’m not sure if I would feel this way if The Whole Love hadn’t been preceded by Wilco (The Album) and Sky Blue Sky, since I’m not sure this is really any worse or less boring than those two. But after three boring albums in a row, I am done with Wilco. The Whole Love may not be a terrible album. It may not even be Wilco’s worst album. It has convinced me, however, Wilco no longer has anything to offer. They’ve been done innovating and experimenting for a while. That’s actually not that bad; they were never that good as an experimental band. More alarmingly, Jeff Tweedy seems to be done writing interesting songs.

“Art of Almost” opens the album with an uncharacteristic mix of electronic programming and noise. For most of the song’s seven minutes it’s a laid back dance groove before picking up steam and turning into a rock song for the final minutes. This all sounds more interesting than the actual result though, especially for the song’s conclusion which is strangely muted. It still raises the expectation that Wilco is experimenting and playing outside of their comfort zone, which doesn’t happen again on this album. After “Art of Almost,” Wilco don’t spend any time doing anything they haven’t done before.

From here on out, Wilco delivers two types of songs: cheerful, upbeat pop songs like “I Might”, “Dawned On Me” and “Standing O” and quiet contemplative songs like “Sunloathe”, “Black Moon” and “Rising Red Lung”. For the former category, only “Born Alone" reaches any sort of payoff when volume and intensity gets raised dramatically at the end, but it can’t overcome an uninteresting melody. And that’s the best pop song on here. The quieter material is even more frustrating. “Sunloathe” is borderline obnoxious. The basic problem is Jeff Tweedy really isn’t much of a crooner. “Open Mind” could possibly work with a stronger singer, but Tweedy’s voice is just too weak to fill the song’s empty spaces. Instead of sounding gentle, the song just feels lazy and disconnected.

Still though, the album succeeds more when it goes quiet than loud. With the exception of the first song, none of the album’s louder songs connect for me. “Black Moon” makes a gentle finger-picked melody more captivating than anything Wilco does when they’re firing all of their guns. “One Sunday Morning” manages to make a quiet restrained folk song interesting for twelve minutes. Josh Pearson could learn a lot by listening to this song. But as good as “One Sunday Morning” is, it doesn’t change the fact this is a giant letdown to close this album. After such a disappointing collection of songs, I needed a soaring epic to recapture my imagination, and I didn’t get it. The sad thing is that Wilco could have had a decent album if they’d just cut about six or seven songs. They might have been able to hold my attention with a 30 minute album. But instead, they’ve released another album that feels like a chore to listen to.

Track List:
1. Art of Almost
2. I Might
3. Sunloathe
4. Dawned on Me
5. Black Moon
6. Born Alone
7. Open Mind
8. Capitol City
9. Standing O
10. Rising Red Lung
11. Whole Love
12. One Sunday Morning

Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

50 / 100
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