Album Review: Wilco – Schmilco
Guest Post by Brad Johnson
Wilco’s tenth studio album sees Jeff Tweedy and co in a nostalgic frame of mind. Throughout their career, Wilco has pioneered experimentation within classic rock and country soundscapes, but on Schmilco, the band goes for something a lot simpler and immediate.
The one-two punch (actually it’s probably more of a glancing blow by a feathered cushion) of opener “Normal American Kids”, and “If I ever was a Child” sees Tweedy in a contemplative mood about his own youth. In typically cynical fashion these songs romanticize both an outsider feeling, and being old beyond your years. “Normal American Kids” charts Tweedy’s obsession with being different, something that he can see more clearly as he looks back at his younger self. In “If I Ever Was A Child” he talks frankly about the childhood obsession with being a grown up and the freedom it was supposed to bring.
Much of the album is about reconciling the different people we are throughout our lives, something that comes across musically in comparison to Wilco’s previous albums. Schmilco is relaxed record, created by seasoned pros that have carved out the kind of career where they answer to no one. “Common Sense”, a slight song on any other album, sticks out here with its subtle experimentation, not musically, but structurally. It may not hang together on its own but fits well in the context, which proves that even on album number ten, Wilco aren’t happy releasing just a collection of songs.
Despite the downbeat tempo, and sometimes even sunny musicality, Wilco are still Wilco at heart. They are still a band that describes a woman giving her body to science in a song called “Happiness”. Even on the album’s best song, “Someone to Lose” they describe positivity in its most morbid, even darkly funny, form. Tweedy croons about helping you find somebody to lose, that the connections we form with people through family, romance and friendship sets you up for heartache when you lose them. Despite the inevitable pain, it’s all still worth having, a risk to be taken gladly.
Wilco are a band that have been around long enough to grow old in front of our eyes. Unlike other bands, those that either implode, or bring out the same album every two years to a shrinking fanbase, Wilco finds compelling ways to write about the passage of time. When you’re young you romanticize your past life, on Schmilco, Wilco try to understand it.