woensdag 21 september 2016

Schmilco. Wilco

Each new album by Wilco is an event to watch out for. Album #10 is no different. Since 1994 the band went through several iterations, but since 2004 it is completely stable. So the 12,5 and 25 years anniversary is getting closer fast.

Wilco followed a musically and artisticly very interesting path, with a few albums that I really, really had to get used to. With Schmilco, which must be an intended pun to Harry Nilsson, the band goes back to very elementary songs. Gone are the atmospheric music, gone are the guitar eruptions by Nels Cline. Enter the acoustic guitar, enter a softer tone.

The softer tone does not necessarily mean that Schmilco is a lightweight album. Far from, it is an album with mood swings. It rocks as well as cradles the listener. 'Common Sense' appeals to the senses. There are a lot of almost disharmonious sounds going on. It all fits on the edges of the song structure, not as it would in a one on one pop song. It is like all band members were allowed to come up with their own ideas after the chords were presented to them without any pre knowledge of the melody. After that they tried to make them fit, ending up with a rather strange, but intriguing song.

Jeff Tweedy knows how to write a song. Even when they are more basic. The band knows how to colour his songs and embellish them. How to add an interesting lick around a chord change. In each song there are these small things to discover.

In 'Someone To Lose' the electric guitars are finally released. Howling and screaming: why are we not on this record? The small contribution is instantly interesting and satisfying. The fact that they are locked back into their cases in 'Happiness' is o.k. The little keyboard sound is so beautiful. The title of this song is rather deceptive. 'Happiness'? "So sad, it's nothing", as Tweedy sings, is more like it. I can't help falling for the song. It may not bring the kind of solace Nick Cave's song 'Skeleton Tree' does, it is the same kind of song. The same deep layer of sadness and beauty in one. Like Cave Wilco touches on, sings and plays all the right notes.

Schmilco may be an elementary album, the quality is unmistakeably there. There's no need for exuberance nor ultimate estrangement or effects to make a good Wilco album. The basics are enough. At times the band touches on Sparklehorse, as in 'Shrug And Destroy'. Wilco is better in adding a lighter touch, which makes Schmilco so well balanced and Wilco the better band. And humour. "We are the world. We are the children"?

The only disappointment is that there isn't a 'Schmilco' on Schmilco, like there was a 'Wilco' on 'Wilco' by Wilco. A missed chance. As you understand, if that is my only complaint, Schmilco must be a good album. And it is.


You can listen to 'If I Ever Was A Child' here:


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