Throughout Wilco’s two decades on the scene, the vacillating brain chemistry of frontman Jeff Tweedy has unfailingly fueled the band’s highflying creative trajectory. Backed by the always vicious electric guitar chops of studio legend Nels Cline, the Chicago band’s 8th studio LP The Whole Love -self-released on Wilco’s nascent dBpm Records- presents Tweedy at a critical juncture.
After surviving the shadowy abyss of a chronic painkiller addiction on Sky Blue Sky, and emerging to bask euphorically in that glistening light at the end of tunnel on delightfully kitschy Wilco (The Album), Tweedy leaves behind the creative reservoir that informed and inspired his work for so many years. Wilco’s latest is both ambitious and deeply personal. And in declining to cash in on the quarter-million-in-sales pop of Wilco (The Album), the veteran rockers are treading on financially soggy soil.
Rock’s archives are flooded with albums detailing the physical and psychological pains of withdrawal, but few capture the appalling, gut wrenching horror of Lennon’s “Cold Turkey.” Even more suspect are cuts where singers champion the miracle of survival, especially where Jesus makes too many cameos. Having successfully converted his dependency on migraine medication into two stellar albums, Tweedy faces a critical question: now what? The Whole Love, oozing with fresh electronic beats, signature alt-country twang, and the maturity of an artist who’s been down the rabbit hole and back, has Wilco updating its sound and reaffirming its status as experimental rock trailblazers.