Wilco – Star Wars Review

Chicago’s established Alternative rockers sprung a surprise for their fans earlier this month by releasing their ninth studio album Star Wars out of nowhere in a Bowie-like fashion and doing so for free for a limited amount of time. Bowie received very favourable reviews due to the shock effect he produced and just the fact he was producing something. It is unlikely Wilco have produced the same effect and there will be a greater focus on the music rather than the publicity in this case, which is only a positive.

‘Random Name Generator’ is a track packed full of bulky and heavily distorted guitars with warping fringes, but these are held together in the production and in doing so keeps the song tight and direct. This is accentuated by Jeff Tweedy’s rough edged, isolated vocal adding to this effect and highlighting a meandering and prominent melody to the track. It makes the track sound fresh and dynamic without entirely being so musically. ‘You Satellite’ opens in a slightly off-beat manner as the grinding guitars pick up in volume alongside Jeff’s wondering vocal which is almost independent of the music in a Nick Cave type fashion and the slightly washed out guitars are a good setting for such a vocal performance, but eventually as the vocal picks up, it come into line somewhat with the music as the guitars mimic the vocal peaks. Nevertheless, this otherwise contemplative track was given a slight twist and injected with a bit of life.

‘Pickled Ginger’ has a distortion beyond that of the pervious tracks and the isolated rumbling that this generates is paired with Jeff’s slightly zany vocals. from this minimalistic pairing the song gradually picks up it’s tone and chiming electronica and sharp percussion is soon bolted on the track and eventually the riffs pick up in audibility to kick up the song to it’s peak as it abruptly ends. A multitude of great production methods here that bridge the gap from minimalism to full on layered instrumentation as well as taking a song from peak to peak and the impact that generates. ‘Magnetized’ begins with blocky synth chimes and gradually becomes a ballad with the swooning backing vocals, extravagant percussion and well placed guitar solos. It’s done brilliantly here to the point where it becomes an eccentric Billy Joel or Elton John track. ‘The Joke Explained’ has a similar impact to the main single whilst ‘King of You’ maintains a slick and direct production and instrumentation with a clear groove and laid back rhythm. The album on the whole is a positive event where Wilco take conventional styles and methods and inject them with a bit of life though some well delivered and imaginative production. This by no means makes the album innovative or explorative, but it makes it sounds fresh and fun through some excellent musical deliveries in addition to the stylistic twists. A pleasant surprise for Wilco fans for sure.

Wilco – Star Wars = 8/10

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

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